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Central Georgia & the CSRA
Grandparent Scams still Targeting Seniors – Do you Know the Red Flags?
Sunday, September 7th is National Grandparents Day and as many celebrate this day with the grandparents that we love, it’s important to take the time to educate our loved ones on the scams that target them. The Better Business Bureau is warning well-meaning seniors about “emergency” scams designed to fool them into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded, and in need of money.
August 29, 2014

Grandparent Scams still Targeting Seniors – Do you Know the Red Flags?

Sunday, September 7th is National Grandparents Day and as many celebrate this day with the grandparents that we love, it’s important to take the time to educate our loved ones on the scams that target them. The Better Business Bureau is warning well-meaning seniors about “emergency” scams designed to fool them into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded, and in need of money.

According to recent FBI reports, the “Grandparent Scam” has been around since 2008, but there has been a surge over the last two years. Retirees are an attractive target for financial scammers. Emergency scams play off of peoples’ emotions and strong desire to help others in need. Scammers impersonate their victims and make up an urgent situation – “I’ve been arrested,” “I’ve been mugged,” “I’m in the hospital” – and target friends and family with urgent pleas for help, and money.

We also see this scam target families with loved ones deployed overseas, claiming to need the money to get back from a weekend pass.  If you don’t send the money, they face being arrested for being AWOL. 

The BBB offers the following tips to avoid the Grandparent Scam:

  • Communicate. Loved ones should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.
  • Share information. Loved ones should provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.
  • Know the red flags. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild or a so-called “officer of the court”. The “grandchild” explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs help, perhaps caused a car accident or was arrested for drug possession. The "grandchild" pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons posting bail, repairing the car, covering lawyer's fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.   
  • Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, the BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their grandchild. If a caller says "It's me, Grandma!" don't respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is.  One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name. 
  • Discuss with family members. Even though the scammer will plead with you to keep this a secret from the parents, discuss the situation with someone and chances are you will find that your grandchild is safe and secure at home. 

For anyone victimized by this type of distressed loved-one call, the BBB recommends reporting the incident immediately to local police departments.