New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office is warning colleges and universities about a so-called "grandparent scam" involving people who are impersonating relatives in need, then duping senior citizens into wiring them money.
The Federal Trade Commission recorded more than 40,000 cases of grandparent scams from 2010 to 2013 and the scam is widely considered to be underreported.
Schneiderman's office sent letters Wednesday to 86 colleges and universities and addressed an open letter to the leaders of private institutions in the state. The letter asks them to be aware that such scams increase during school breaks such as the upcoming winter break.
Often, the scammer will pose as a grandchild, claiming to be in legal trouble or even physical danger.
"It is despicable that these scammers abuse the love that grandparents have for their grandchildren to dupe them into thinking they are helping a family member," Schneiderman notes in the letter. "With the holidays approaching and winter vacation around the corner my hope is that you can help us make your students and their families aware of the scam."
Last month, the Attorney General's office launched an intergenerational initiative, Grandkids Against The Grandparent Scam, to get older adults the information they need to avoid becoming victims.
Given the tendency of scammers to impersonate college students, the Schneiderman has asked all of New Yorks higher education institutions to make their students aware of the initiative.
The program provides students with specifics about how the scam works and an informational brochure to share with their parents and grandparents. The brochure offers students a script and other tips to warn their grandparents about the dangerous scam.
Some of the tips include:
Be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly asking you to wire money.
Verify any supposed emergency, by calling friends and family, before wiring money.
Develop a secret code or "password" with family members that can be used to verify a true emergency.
Limit personal information, such as vacation plans, shared on social media sites.