Consumer Warning: telephone scams

Consumer Warning: Attorney General Corbett warns consumers about telephone scam involving bogus pleas to help family members

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Tom Corbett today warned Pennsylvania consumers to be wary of a new type of aggressive financial scam involving scam artists who pretend to be family members supposedly involved in a traffic accident in Canada.

Corbett said the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection has received several complaints from senior citizens in Southwestern Pennsylvania who have been targeted by the scam, including an 86-year old man who lost more than $13,000 and a 71-year old woman who lost $4,500.

“Criminals are trying to use fear, sympathy or emotion to convince consumers to quickly send money to a relative who has run into trouble while traveling,” Corbett said. “This disturbing new telephone scam is focused on Pennsylvania seniors who believe they are doing the ‘right thing’ by helping a family member return home safely.”

Corbett said that potential victims are receiving calls from a person claiming to be their grandson, who has been involved in a traffic accident in Canada. The “grandson” explains that he does not have insurance on his car and needs several thousand dollars – either to pay for repairs to his own car or to pay for the damage that was done to another vehicle.

“In two incidents during the past week, victims were instructed to visit their local Wal-Mart store and send a MoneyGram wire-transfer of $4,500 to $5,000 to a store in Ontario, Canada,” Corbett said. “In both of these cases, the victims then received a ‘thank you’ call from their ‘grandson,’ followed by a request to send more money to pay for additional repairs, fines or travel expenses.”

Corbett said these recent scam calls appear to be a variation of another Canadian telephone scam that the Bureau of Consumer Protection warned consumers about last month.

Corbett explained that during August residents in Northeastern Pennsylvania were targeted by calls from scam artists posing as police officers from Canada. In those incidents, the caller claimed that the victim’s grandson had been arrested for fishing without a license and requested that the victim wire-transfer $2,800 to an address in Ontario, Canada, in order to secure the grandson’s release.

Additionally, Corbett noted that other similar scams have been reported across Pennsylvania involving telephone messages left by individuals posing as police or hospital officials, directing victims to call a special number to receive information about a relative who has been hurt in an accident. The phone numbers that consumers are asked to call are often international numbers, though they may appear to be ordinary U.S. phone numbers, resulting in expensive long-distance bills for unsuspecting victims.

“It is important for consumers to report suspicious calls as soon as possible, so that we can warn other Pennsylvania residents about possible scams and also so that local, federal and international law enforcement can investigate these crimes,” Corbett said.

Consumers with questions or problems should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-441-2555 or file an online consumer ( using the Attorney General’s website: Highlight the “Complaints” button on the front page of the website and select “Consumer Complaints” from the menu).

            Additionally, Corbett encouraged consumers who have lost money as the result of these scams to contact their local police department and the nearest regional office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to file a criminal report.