Scram, ‘granny scam’: DA’s office launches awareness program for fraudulent phone calls

  • Jen Vargas shows the data of a recent robocall on her home phone in Orlando, Fla. Vargas has an app for her cellphone that helps locate and block fraudulent calls, although she doesn’t know what to do on the home phone other than ignore those calls.   AP FILE PHOTO/JOHN RAOUX 

For the Gazette
Published: 10/10/2019 4:33:11 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Karin Eisenwinter, of Amherst, says she receives 20 or more imposter scam calls per week.

This week, someone posing as a Medicare agent claimed to have reviewed her medical records and asked for her current Medicare account number because a third party was attempting to hack it, the caller said. Eisenwinter knew immediately the threat was actually the person she was speaking to.

“They’re getting more and more realistic,” she said. “I’m usually super-suspicious. I’m concerned about other people that aren’t used to this.”

To address problems like these, the Consumer Protection Unit of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office launched a Scam Awareness Program last month. Their online series of tips help consumers identify and halt common scams. The topics range from identity theft to free trial scams to the infamous “granny scam,” in which a caller targets an elderly person posing as a grandchild in immediate need of cash.

The campaign includes 17 online videos aimed to educate consumers about scam awareness and prevention. These safety tips are also being broadcasted via local TV stations, as well as distributed in newsletters at senior centers, police departments and other locations.

“This is a way to reach a lot of people,” said Anita Wilson, case coordinator at the Consumer Protection Unit. “We spend a lot of time on education and awareness, and we thought, ‘How are we going to reach the people that aren’t attending outreach meetings?’”

“It’s the same information — we’re just presenting it in a different format,” added Director of the Consumer Protection Unit Janice Garrett.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “consumers reported losing a total of nearly $488 million to all types of imposter scams in 2018 — more than any other type of fraud — and reported a median loss of $500.” That same year, for the first time, the most common consumer complaints reported to the FTC involved imposter scams.

“If you’re unsure about the caller, just hang up. Don’t engage,” Garrett said. 

Eisenwinter sounded enthusiastic about the Scam Awareness Program, noting that she and her friends will watch the television broadcasts.

Anyone can access the resources on the DA’s website at

If you or someone you know has been scammed, call the Consumer Protection Unit at 413-586-9225.

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