BILILNGS – Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, a Billings police detective and a local senior warned Billings residents about a scam targeting grandparents and bilking unsuspecting Montanans out of thousands of dollars.
In the “grandparent scam,” an older person receives a call from someone who pretends to be their grandchild. Sometimes, the caller is crying and sounds in distress and may claim to be in a foreign country. Despite differences in the details, the call always leads to one thing: the grandparent must wire cash to help his or her grandchild. While the entire scenario is fiction the person’s actual grandchild is not in trouble, once a trusting grandparent wires money overseas, it is virtually impossible to recover.
“Montana seniors have lost tens of thousands of dollars to criminals who make their living preying on decent people’s emotions,” Bullock said. “We’re here today because we don’t want you or any other Montanans to be the next victim.”
Bullock also encouraged Montanans to sign up for a new service through his office which warns consumers of scams as state officials investigate and track them. The Scam Alerts system is intended to sound an alarm when a new scheme hits, arming Montanans with the knowledge to outsmart scammers. To sign-up for this service and receive warnings of scams, visit www.consumerprotection.mt.gov.
Montana’s Office of Consumer Protection, which Bullock oversees, reports that con artists have used the grandparent scam to bilk seniors out of more than $68,000 this year alone. Those figures reflect only those people who reported the scam to the Montana Department of Justice – the true cost of the scheme is certainly much higher, Bullock said.