So many elderly folks in Montana have been scammed into wiring money oversees that the state has distributed thousands of educational place mats to 170 senior centers in hopes that fewer will be fooled.place mats (PDF), paid for by the AARP, display a letter from Attorney General Steve Bullock warning of the "grandparent scam." (It also includes a fun word search game—with words like "grifter" and "crying"—for seniors to enjoy while they eat.)
The scam goes like this, according to the place mat:
- An older person gets a phone call. The person on the other end is often crying and saying something like “Grandma, it’s me.”
-The caller says he or she is in trouble, usually claiming to be in a foreign country.
-The caller begs you, the grandparent, not to tell her parents about the trouble she is in.
-A “police officer” or “attorney” gets on the phone and tells you that in order to help your grandchild, you must immediately wire money, often out of the country.
The Office of Consumer Protection has received 40 complaints about such scams in 2010, with Montanans getting bilked out of $68,000. And these figures reflect only those who actually reported the scam.
Bullock's office is doing more than just printing place mats to get the word out. It produced a video, posted to YouTube a couple weeks ago, telling the story of Jack and Terry Knight, of Fairfield, who recently wired almost $6,000 overseas.
Bullock spoke with seniors in Billings recently, too.
But it appears he has many more place mats to distribute. This appeared on the Flathead Beacon's crime blotter last Thursday:
2:53 p.m. A conned elderly Harbon Hill woman paid more than $6,000 to an unknown man claiming to be her imprisoned grandson. The man, who said he was in a Canadian jail, told her to send money to his bail bondsman in Haiti. After the initial $2,800 was sent, the woman received another call, this time from a “Canadian officer” requesting $3,600 because they had to put the “grandson” up in a hotel.
Click here for the Department of Justice's recent press release.