Attorney General Charity Clark is warning Vermonters that the grandparent scam is on the rise -- and scammers are utilizing new, sophisticated tactics. As typical of this scam, callers claim to be grandchildren in an emergency situation, such as in a car accident, in prison, or at the hospital, and need money to resolve the problem. The Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) has received reports of a new tactic used with this scam: scammers have local “couriers” arrive in person and collect money directly from grandparents at their home to resolve the fake emergency.
“Calls from family in distress are emotionally jarring. Scammers know this and pressure us to act quickly,” said Attorney General Clark. “The best thing you can do right now, is come up with a family emergency plan, so that if you receive one of these calls you can quickly conclude that your family member is safe.”
While the grandchild imposter scam has long plagued Vermonters, “couriers” coming to Vermonters’ homes to collect cash is new. CAP has received 19 reports of grandchild imposter scams since the beginning of the year. In the last week, CAP has received eight grandchild imposter scam reports from Vermonters. In three complaints, grandparents were advised that an individual or a “courier,” sometimes referencing “UPS” or “FedEx,” would retrieve cash from them at their homes— two of these scams resulted in monetary losses of thousands of dollars.
Common elements of this scam include:
- Cash is needed to pay for a “bond” or a “bail bond agent” or other “legal fees.”
- A loved one was involved in a “car accident,” and has severely injured someone.
- A person, possibly part of a courier service, comes to your home to retrieve cash.
The Federal Trade Commission has further warned that scammers are using artificial intelligence to clone the voice of the grandchild, making the urgent call seem more credible. Vermonters who receive these calls should resist the urge to act immediately and take steps to verify the caller’s identity.
CAP advises whenever contacted by someone unknown who asks for cash, a money order, a gift card to be purchased, funds to be wired, or for any other financial transaction initiated, take steps to verify the identity of your loved one in distress. Here’s how:
- Take a deep breath and slow down. Scammers create a sense of urgency; by slowing down you can protect yourself from falling for their tricks.
- Write down the phone number of the caller and hang up the phone.
- Call your grandchild or another person who can verify their whereabouts and well-being.
To protect yourself from future scams, create a scam prevention plan now. Consider creating an uncommon family codeword, phrase, or pin number that you agree to keep private. Make a phone tree of reliable contacts to call if a scam like this is received.
If you or someone you know has lost money to this scam, contact law enforcement and report the scam to CAP at 1-800-649-2424. Learn more about family emergency scams by watching CAP’s Avoiding the Family Emergency Scam video and reviewing steps to verify at https://ago.vermont.gov/cap/scam-prevention-through-awareness-and-education/family-imposter-scams.
CONTACT: Lauren Jandl, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171