It seems like scammers kick everything up a few notches around the holidays. So, as we approach the holiday season, here are four scams known in Western New York that you need to be aware of.

Grandparents Scam

This scam targets the elderly. Scammers find personal information about their targets on social media and through Internet searches. They use the information to pose as family members, particularly grandchildren, who are in trouble and need money. This scam is executed through phone calls and emails. The scammers demand that money be provided immediately.

Several "Grandparent Scam" scenarios have been reported. In one, a grandparent receives a phone call in the middle of the night from a grandchild, who explains that he or she is in a foreign country and needs money wired as soon as possible to get out of a situation. This story often involves being in a car accident, being arrested, or being mugged. The caller also insists that the parents not be informed. In another, the scammer impersonates an arresting police officer, a lawyer, or a doctor, who is calling on behalf of the relative in trouble. ~ Erie County Consumer Protection

To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, don't give out personal information, don't open email attachments from people you don't know, don't rush to send money before confirming that it's a legitimate call, and if you believe you've been scammed, report it immediately.

IRS Scam

Be aware of calls from the people claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service. If you receive this type of call you may be instructed to immediately provide payment for monies owed via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Please note that the IRS would never make such a request. The IRS will normally send any correspondence via the U.S. Mail Service Scammers use phone spoofing to make the number appear to be legit. The IRS won't request a credit card number over the phone and would not request any personal or financial information via email. If you receive a call from someone claiming to represent the IRS, you can always hang up and contact the IRS yourself, especially if they threaten to deport you, take your license or send the police to arrest you. Here is the contact page for New York.

Online Dating

While many people are used to swiping right or left, be aware that dating scams are known to be taking place here in WNY. Many of these scammers are located in different countries. They may start out giving a small gift to their victims, only to turn around later and ask for a big amount of money. Once they get the money, they can no longer be reached by the victim.

According to new FTC data, the number of romance scams people report to the FTC has nearly tripled since 2015. Even more, the total amount of money people reported losing in 2019 is six times higher than it was five years ago – from $33 million lost to romance scammers in 2015 to $201 million in 2019. People reported losing more money to romance scams in the past two years than to any other fraud reported to the FTC. ~ Erie County Consumer Protection

Many people become victims by following their heart, rather than their instincts. Use your head when it comes to online dating and be cautious.

One Ring Scam

This scam involves robocalls, which call victims from international toll-generating phone numbers. The phone will ring just once, then disconnect. If a victim calls the phone number back they will incur high fees per minute. The scammers may leave a voice message to encourage the victim to return the call. These calls may happen late at night and maybe back-to-back, to create a sense of urgency. Be very careful if you receive a call from any of these area codes, especially if you don't have friends or family in the area,

FCC says the area codes that show up are from Caribbean countries, such as 649 (the Turks and Caicos) or 809 (Dominican Republic). Consumer Affairs found similar scams linked to area codes 473 (Grenada); 876 and 658 (Jamaica); and 284 (British Virgin Islands). ~ Erie County Consumer Protection

You can visit the Erie County Consumer Protection's website for more info. You can also call (716) 858-6169 or email

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