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August 27, 2014

BISMARCK, ND – Concerned grandparents in Fargo reported to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection division that they recently lost $2,000 to the “grandparent scam.” The victims received a call claiming that their “granddaughter” was involved in a legal matter in another state and urgently needed money for court fees or she’d go to jail. By the time the victims learned their real granddaughter was safe, the scam artists already had the money.

As college students leave for schools in other states, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem urged all North Dakotans to talk to their elderly family members about this scam, adding “The scam artists take advantage of the special relationship that exists between grandparents and grandchildren.”

The scam has been circulating in North Dakota for the past six years. Stenehjem has issued numerous warnings about this scam but the consumer protection division still regularly receives reports from victims, many of whom have lost several thousands of dollars. The scam targets older individuals because they are more likely to have college-age grandchildren living outside the state

“Unfortunately, as fast as we issue a warning about one version of the scam, the scam artists simply create a different cover story and continue to make calls,” Stenehjem said. “The only constant is the urgent request for money to help the supposed grandchild.”

Stenehjem explained that the scam artists use trickery to learn the name of an actual grandchild, such as asking the grandparent to “guess” who is on the phone. To explain away an unfamiliar sounding voice, they may pretend to have a cold. “Don’t volunteer names or play along,” said Stenehjem. “If you make it hard for the scam artists, they will give up and hang up.”

During the call, the supposed “grandchild” urges the grandparent not to tell the parents about the legal trouble, and may also claim that their own phone has been confiscated by authorities. “If you are concerned that your grandchild really is in trouble and needs your urgent help, before you agree to take any action, contact another family member at their regular phone number,” said Stenehjem.

In earlier versions, the phony grandchild asked the grandparents to wire the money but now the scam artists have moved onto the popular prepaid reloadable “MoneyPak” cards because they can strip the money off the card as soon as it is purchased, before the authorities can do anything to stop it.

Stenehjem reiterated previous warnings, saying “If you instructed told to buy MoneyPak cards, then you know it’s a scam. It doesn’t matter what reason you are given, it’s a scam and you should hang up immediately.”

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