NORTHEAST OHIO (WOIO) - There is a new scam targeting northeast Ohio grandparents that uses iTunes to steal money.
According to the Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs, the scammers are also preying on their victims' emotions.
The agency says a 79-year-old Cuyahoga County woman was contacted by a scammer posing as her granddaughter, claiming that she was in jail.
The caller then handed the phone to an accomplice posing as a public defender.
The accomplice told the grandmother she needed to pay $3,500 to free her granddaughter.
When the grandmother said she did not have the money, the scammer directed her to get a cash advance on her credit card and use the money to buy iTunes gift cards from a grocery store.
After purchasing the gift cards, the scammer asked for the card numbers, allowing him to strip the value from the cards.
The scammer then instructed her to mail the now worthless cards to a Columbus address.
This cycle repeated once more, the second time the cards were mailed to an insurance agent in Cleveland.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Cleveland reported receiving a nearly identical scam complaint from a senior in Huron County.
The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs has the following advice:
• Be aware that grandparent scams are common. Seniors can avoid these scams simply by calling a relative to confirm the family member's location. Family members should make sure grandparents have cell numbers for children and grandchildren and encourage them to verify a relative is in trouble, even if the grandchild pleads for secrecy. Spread the word to seniors so they can protect themselves. Any call in which they are asked to send money and to tell no one about the request should be treated as suspect.
• Avoid sending payments to people who call demanding money. It's easy for callers to pretend to be law enforcement officers, public defenders, IRS agents or even relatives (technology can even help them change the sound of their voices).
• Understand that scammers often ask for unusual payment methods (prepaid cards, gift cards, Moneypaks, wire transfers, etc.) because they are hard for law enforcement to trace. Law enforcement and government officials will never instruct you to use a gift card to pay a fine, nor will they tell you how to take out a cash advance on your credit card.