Attorney General Jim Hood’s Consumer Protect Division has seen a recent increase in cases where grandparents have been the targets of wire fraud scams, commonly known as “grandparent scams.” General Hood is issuing a reminder to Mississippians to remain vigilant of these scammers and to know how to protect yourself—or your loved ones—in these situations.

Identifying the grandparent scam is easy: a theme of the scam is the caller’s request for the grandparent or intended victim to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram or to provide bank account routing numbers to the scammers. Reports of this scam have been made across the state, but Harrison and Hinds Counties appear to be specifically targeted.

“Wiring money is identical to mailing cash,” said General Hood. “There are no protections for the sender and no way to reverse the transaction, trace the money, or recover payment from the telephone con artists. These scammers will try to convince their victims to send any amount—from several hundred to several thousand dollars—and they may even call back hours or days later asking for more money if they were successful the first time.”

A common scenario of the grandparent scam involves a scammer frantically contacting their victim claiming to be a loved one on vacation in some sort of distress or financial bind. The scammer will usually ask the victim to wire transfer money and could also ask for their bank account numbers. Scammers generally pose as a grandchild, family member or even a close friend or neighbor as they target grandparents or elder individuals who may be unsuspecting.

Attorney General Hood offers these tips to protect you from becoming a victim of the grandparent scam or other ones similar to it:

l Do not wire any amount of money unless you have properly assessed the situation or in some way verified with others close to your loved one that they are actually in trouble.

l Be suspicious if your loved one requests or demands that you keep the phone call a secret by claiming to be very embarrassed and/or scared.

l Avoid acting out of a sense of urgency if you receive communication from a “loved one” (scammer) who claims to be traveling and is in some sort of distress or financial bind asking you to urgently wire transfer them money.

l Immediately after receiving the call or message, attempt calling your “loved one” back at the telephone number through which you normally reach him or her if they reached out or attempted to reach out to you using an odd or long distance number.

“Our goal is to help educate and make our senior citizens and loved ones aware of these kinds of unfortunate and disheartening scams,” General Hood said. “I strongly urge you to never give out any personal identifying information or account numbers to anyone unless you are certain the individual is who they claim to be and will use the information for the reason they have requested it.”

If you suspect you have already been the victim of a scam, or the intended victim of a scam, immediately report it to local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division at 601-359-4230 or 1-800-281-4418. Consumers should additionally call and report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.