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Chicago and Northern Illinois
Better Business Bureau Issues “Granny Scam” Advisory
August 28, 2014

Many scams and schemes run by con artists are cyclical in that they come and go. Sometimes it’s every few months, or following a natural disaster or at a particular time of the year. One of those that fall into a cycle is the “Granny Scam” and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is advising the public to look for red flags.

With students leaving home and returning to college, the opportunity is ripe for scammers to begin making calls that target grandparents.

“As we know the best defense is a good offense.” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “We want to arm grandparents with information that can help prevent them and their families from falling victim to this scam.”

In this scam, the grandparent receives a distressed phone call from someone who they believe is their grandchild. For example, the scam caller might say, “It’s me, your favorite grandchild,” to which the grandparent will guess the name of the grandchild the caller sound the most like, and then the call proceeds from there. The supposed grandchild typically explains they are traveling and have been arrested or involved in an auto accident. Sometime they say they’ve been injured and need medical treatment. The grandparent is asked to wire money to post bail or pay for damages or treatment, usually amounting to a few thousand dollars.

While senior citizens are being targeted, law enforcement officials believe the scammers are most likely calling random numbers. “The key here is that senior citizens are more than likely to be home during the day to take the phone call,” noted Bernas.

What to do if you receive a “Granny Scam” call:

  • Remain calm – Despite the emergency nature of the call try to verify the identity of the caller. Don’t get caught up in the urgency which can lead to making emotional rather than logical decisions.
  • Make direct contact – Confirm the status of the individual by calling them directly or verifying the story with other family members before taking action.
  • Wire transfers – Any request to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram should be seen as a “red flag” and an immediate tip-off that the call may be part of a scam.
  • Report the call – If you have been victimized by this type of distressed loved-one call, immediately contact your local police department and the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

For more tips, visit www.bbb.org, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization.  It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices.  The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service.  Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.