TRIAD Talks Scams

Published 5:03 pm Thursday, August 29, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD — Scammers are always coming up with schemes to separate senior citizens from their money.

Like calling and pretending to be a grandchild in need.

“It’s very simple and it’s very devious,” explained Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli at the August Prince Edward TRIAD meeting. “And…it works well because it uses one of older Virginians’ most reliable assets: their heart.”

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Cuccinelli explained, “Scammers call an older person, maybe not with the best connection in the world, and say something like, ‘Hi grandma. Do you know who this is?’ And when the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of a particular grandchild or another that this caller sounds most like, the scammer adopts that identity. And they just jump right into it.”

The fake grandchild, of course, asks for money to pay the rent, tuition, car payment, note that their car broke down and such.

“And they’ll ask…you to wire money to ’em right away. Right away is one of the key features here,” Cuccinelli cautioned. “If you get a call like this, you need to verify the identity of who’s calling you. You need to identify the location of the grandchild claiming to be in trouble. And the way you need to do that is to hang up—not hang up on them—but hang up, call another family member and trace it back and get that contact back through another family member who can confirm where that grandchild is and then try and calling your grandchild through the normal telephone number you have for him or her, probably a cell phone… You need to initiate that call, not them.”

If the person is a scammer, he noted, they are going to protest, “Because they want you to act before you can get off that phone call. That’s their goal is to pressure you hard in acting and sending money before you get off that phone call. It’s a pressure tactic and they want you to act before you know who you’re dealing with.”

Prince Edward County TRIAD is one of many TRIAD organizations (there are over 200 in the state) that are working to meet identified community needs, including getting information out on scams, health issues and other concerns for older citizens. Meetings are held quarterly and are open to the public.

A partnership through the Virginia Attorney General’s Office to help seniors, TRIAD locally involves the collaborative efforts of senior representatives, Centra Hospice the County’s Department of Social Services, Piedmont Senior Resources, Home Recovery/Home Aid, Scope/Meals on Wheels, Trinity Mission, Heritage Hall, Crossroads, Farmville Police Department and the County’s Sheriff’s Office.

The local TRIAD celebrated its fourth anniversary with a special program at the Fireman’s Sports Area in Farmville, which included a visit from Virginia’s Attorney General.

“Around four years ago, we started over at the Prince Edward Rescue Squad Building. We thought that if we had 20 people show up, that it would be a success,” reflected Prince Edward TRIAD Vice-Chairman and Farmville Police Lt. Bill Hogan. “And I think we had 70. …And it’s grown since then and now we’re averaging well over 200 people per meeting.”

The day’s meeting included a healthy number of seniors as well as representatives for an array of agencies. There’s some lunch available, too, plus a dance was scheduled after the information portion of the meeting. TRIAD holds quarterly meetings and the local group functions on donations (some vendor fees) and the spirit of caring for the safety of area seniors.

“I think word of mouth, probably,” Hogan assesses of why it has grown so much. “I mean, apparently they’re getting something that’s interesting…”

The food and the door prizes may be the biggest draw, Hogan offers, but if that’s what it takes to get them there and to give the information they need to protect themselves, that’s what they’re going to do.

Just that day, Hogan detailed, a lady told him something she had learned in TRIAD had saved her family over $1,000 in scam money.

“That grandparents scheme that he [Cuccinelli] mentioned, that’s happened right here,” Lt. Hogan offered. “We’ve had that happen in town—more than one occasion. We have told them about that before.”

He noted, “It’s always ‘Wire them money. I need you to wire me money.’ If anybody asks you to wire them money, right away bells and whistles ought to be going off—especially if it’s overseas…Once you wire money overseas, it’s gone, we can never get it back.”

Hogan advises it’s OK to hang up.

The grandparent scam was one tip on the day. Cuccinelli would tell those present that there’s information at the Attorney General’s website on avoiding scams (

“We put out a monthly email that includes updates on the scams that are going on at the moment,” he noted.

He added, “You’ll hear them calling and saying we have free medical devices…and then when summer hits, you get the free travel schemes, the selling you the condo or…vacation spots, that kind of thing and it’s all scams…Another one is charities. Whenever there’s a natural disaster, when we had the Oklahoma tornados, boom, these scammers start immediately calling the other states to get donors. And you’re not donating to the Red Cross. You’re not donating to the tornado relief fund. You’re donating to Fred Scam Artist. So we don’t want to give Fred Scam Artist anything.”

While Cuccinelli offered that they want to encourage people to give to charity, he suggested that they only give to charities that they know, and not to give to charities that call you.

“They’ll say they’re from the American Red Cross, ’cause everybody’s heard of the American Red Cross, but when that money gets transferred, it ain’t going to the American Red Cross,” the Attorney General stated. “So, maybe they give you the idea, but then you hang up and you call the American Red Cross. You make the contact yourself. Or to whatever other well-known charity you want to work through. But you hang up and call…the real charity back.”

Cuccinelli also cited efforts in his office to crack down on Medicaid fraud and elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

He noted the federal government has estimated Virginia alone could be losing well over $600 million a year to healthcare fraud in their Medicaid program.

“And these people aren’t just stealing from taxpayers. This is money we set aside to provide healthcare to poor Virginians and we’re serious about doing that and we can’t do it when the money gets stolen. So it’s our job to go back and get as much of it as we can.”

Their Medicaid fraud unit, he offered, is the top in the country. In the last three-and-a-half years, he said, they have obtained more in dollar results “than in the entire 27 years of this program combined before I became attorney general.” He asked that they be “our eyes and ears to help us with investigation and to discover these frauds as they’re taking place. And abuse in nursing homes. If you have a loved one or a friend in a nursing home, you can check those nursing home inspection reports to see how they’re doing.”

Cuccinelli noted, “…If you suspect that a loved one or a friend is suffering from elder abuse or neglect at one of these facilities, you can call my office [804-371-0779 or 1-800-371-0824]…” He noted they take “literally thousands of complaints a year that we investigate. So if you have that concern, we’ll run it down.”