According to the Federal Trade Commission, the number of complaints about consumer fraud against seniors has more than doubled since 2009. So called imposter scams, when someone poses as a relative or friend to extort money from someone they don't know increased by 22 percent last year.
The latest spate of scams against seniors in New Hampshire are the so called "Grandparent" scams. James Boffetti head of the state consumer protection bureau at the Attorney General's office, says his office gets several complaints of these types of scams monthly.
"The worst complaint for the elderly that were seeing quite a bit of right now is this grandparent scam," says Boffetti. "A grandparent gets a call, the person says 'Hi, grandma it's me' and the grandmother says 'Scott is that you?'" explains Boffetti. "Now he has the person’s name and says 'yes, it's Scott. I am in trouble, I’m in the police station. I’m at the Canadian border. They won’t let me go. Please don’t tell my parents, but I need you to wire me some money.'"
81-year old Mary Lockridge of Nashua was a victim of a grandparent scam. She received a call and believed it was her granddaughter who was in jail in Canada.
"She said 'Grandma? I’m so embarrassed. I have done something so stupid and I am in jail, I’m in Ontario and I’m in jail,'" Lockridge recalls. "This is what I was told by a very good little actress, while sobbing all the while and I was convinced it was Jill, they snowed me completely."
Lockridge ended up wiring $2,700 to an address in Spain. She was told that would pay the lawyer to get her granddaughter out of jail. Lockridge says she felt a duty to her grandchild. "My granddaughter is in a foreign country and she is in jail," says Lockridge. "This is something Grandma can do and they got me on everyone of these things."
"Once the money is wired, there is almost no way to trace it," says Senior Assistant Attorney General Tom Boffetti. The best tool the AG and consumer advocates have to deal with the increase in scams against seniors is to educate them so they don't become victims in the first place, he says.
"We try to get the word up as much as we can so people don’t get hit up in the beginning education is the best enforcement tool to prevent it."