Media contact: Janet C. Hart, APR, CFEE, Fellow PRSA (704) 927-8617
At 1 p.m. today, the United States Senate's Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing to discuss the growing problem of scams that target older adults. The specific scam that will be discussed at this hearing is the grandparents scam.
The grandparents scam is also known as the "Grandma, it's me" scam. This scam involves a late night phone call to an older adult from a muffled voice who says, "Grandma, it's me, I need help."
Then the "grandchild" will urge the grandparent to send money immediately via wire transfer or Green Dot MoneyPak card because the "grandchild" is in trouble in a foreign country.
The grandchild could claim to be in jail for drug smuggling or in need of medical treatment following an accident. The grandparent will send the money via wire transfer or buy a prepaid debit card and give the scammer the card number over the phone.
As soon as the money is wired or the prepaid debit card number is given, the money is gone and there is no way to retrieve it.
Education is the key to scam prevention and this scam is preventable.
The most important step for an older adult who gets an "urgent" phone call about a grandchild in trouble, is to contact other family members to verify where the grandchild is and are they in trouble. Often times, the grandchild will be at home in bed asleep, not in jail in a foreign country for drug smuggling.
If you are an older adult, the BBB has these tips for how you can protect yourself against scams.
1) Discuss requests for money or any large payments with your adult children before you make the payments.
2) Tell someone whom you trust -- an adult child, a neighbor, or a pastor -- about anyone who is pressuring you for money.
3) If a telemarketer calls, you should say that you aren't interested and hang up. You are not being rude. You are being careful.
4) Don't be pressured or intimidated into buying, giving or paying money on the spot - whether it's to someone on the phone, at your front door, or by email.
5) Never give your personal information -- credit card number, social security number, bank account number -- to someone who contacts you, regardless of whether they say they are from the IRS, the FBI, the police department or other "official" organization. These organizations will not call you or email you. They will either contact you in person or by mail.
6) Keep documents that contain personal information in a secure place so that someone who may be in your home couldn't copy down your bank account number.
7) Check with the BBB, an adult child or other trusted source before you sign a contract.
For more information about how scammers target older adults, please visit www.bbb.org