When 81-year-old Cincinnati resident Roger W. answered a call in December, he thought it was his grandson on the other end of the phone.
The "grandson" said he had been arrested for speeding and drug possession and urgently needed money for bail. He then turned the call over to a person claiming to be a police officer. Convinced their grandson needed help, Roger W. and his wife headed to a local retail store to purchase a money-order card to cover the cost of bail.
After sending a total of $7,000 to the supposed police officer, the couple soon discovered they had been conned out of their hard-earned money after reaching their real grandson on his cellphone. They are among an untold number of seniors who have fallen victim to an old imposter scam known as the "grandparent scam" that experts say is making a comeback across the nation.
Roger W., who has requested anonymity to avoid becoming a target of other con-artists, is set testify Wednesday before a hearing of the U.S Senate Special Committee on Aging. The hearing will examine the recent rise in imposter scams, particularly the grandparent scam. Additional witnesses include representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United States Telecom Association.
According to the FTC, Americans lost more than $73 million to impostor scams last year. While the agency admits the figure accounts for only a fraction of the problem because most victims fail to report the crime, instances of imposter scams have doubled between 2009 and 2013. U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the committee's chairman and ranking member, called for the hearing after receiving complaints from victims through the committee's fraud hotline. The two lawmakers said they're hoping the hearing will help identify potential solutions to help authorities better detect and prosecute such crimes, as well as encourage retailers and phone companies to do their part to protect consumers.
Wednesday's hearing is the latest in a series of investigations the panel has held to spotlight the devastating impact fraud has on seniors. Over the last two years, the committee has examined the rise of Jamaican lottery scams, along with tax refund schemes and Social Security and Medicare fraud.