WORCESTER, MA, July 16, 2014 - - The “Grandparents Scam,” as it’s often referred to, has become one of the most reported scams to the Better Business Bureau in the past few years. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, this con has been around since at least 2008. Unfortunately, this scam that preys on one of the most vulnerable populations, the elderly, is still bilking consumers out of their hard earned savings, and the U.S. Senate is taking action.
The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging will tackle this issue head-on in a hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The hearing, officially titled “Hanging Up on Phone Scams: Progress and Potential Solutions to this Scourge,” is the latest in a series of investigations the panel has held to spotlight the devastating impact fraud has on seniors.
The scam typically progresses something like this: The “grandson” or “grand daughter” calls grandma or grandpa to say that he has been arrested for speeding, drug possession, in a car accident, a fight, has been mugged, is in the hospital, etc., (often in a foreign country) and that s/he urgently needs money for bail. S/he then turns the call over to a person claiming to be a police officer, lawyer, or other official. Convinced that their grandchild needs immediate help, the elderly victim rushes to their bank to wire transfer the money, or to the post office to get a money-order to support their grandchild. Another version of this scam is that the grandchild calls out of the blue to tell their grandparents that they’re on vacation in Canada, Europe, Mexico, etc. and are out of money, and stuck. They then ask for money to purchase tickets to “return home.”
Fortunately, this is an easy scam to avoid as long as you don’t act in the moment, and let your emotions get the best of you. Nancy Cahalen, President of the BBB of Central New England advises; “If you receive a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild in distress, don’t disclose any information before you have confirmed it really is your 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. Did the caller refer to you by the name they always call you – ‘Nana,’ ‘Granny,’ ‘Pop,’ or ‘Pa’ for instance, instead of ‘Grandma,’ or ‘Grandpa?’ One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that your grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name. You should also be sure to call your son or daughter and confirm the details – even if your ‘grandchild’ says not to tell mom or dad, and/or speak to your real grandchild directly.”
According to the FTC, Americans lost more than $73 million to impostor scams last year. While the agency admits the figure accounts for only a fraction of the problem because most victims fail to report the crime, instances of imposter scams have doubled between 2009 and 2013. U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the committee’s chairman and ranking member, called for the hearing after receiving complaints from victims through the committee’s fraud hotline. The two lawmakers said they’re hoping the hearing will help identify potential solutions to help authorities better detect and prosecute such crimes, as well as encourage retailers and phone companies to do their part to protect consumers.
If you suspect that you have fallen victim to the scam, BBB recommends that you report the incident immediately by calling 866-566-9222.
ABOUT Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central New England
The mission of BBB is to promote and foster the highest ethical relationship between businesses and consumers, through voluntary self-regulation, business and consumer education and service excellence. For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2013, people turned to BBB more than 132 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. BBB of Central New England, Inc. was founded in 1940 and serves 225 communities in Worcester, Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Berkshire counties, as well as parts of Middlesex County, and 7 towns in Connecticut. BBB of Central New England is one of 113 local, independent BBBs across North America.