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Council of Better Business Bureaus
Grandparents Across North America Fall Victim to Scammers Posing as their Grandchildren
February 12, 2010

BBB warns senior citizens that the “Grandparent Scam” is back

grandpa-and-grand-daughterArlington VA -  February 10, 2010 – Well-meaning senior citizens who think they are helping a grandchild in distress are becoming victims of another wave of the so-called “Grandparent Scam,” warns Better Business Bureau. So far, the scam has targeted grandparents in more than a dozen states and Canadian provinces and stolen as much as $19,000 from one victim alone. 

“The grandparent scam preys on the love of a grandparent for their grandchildren and has proven to be an extremely lucrative con for scammers,” said Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Fortunately, this is an easy scam to avoid as long as you don’t let your emotions get the best of you.”

Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from whom they are led to believe is their grandchild. A scammer, posing as their grandchild, explains that he or she has gotten into trouble—often in Canada—and needs their help. The “grandchild” might claim he or she caused a car accident or was arrested for drug possession. With the new wave of calls, victims are also contacted by someone claiming to be a police officer or lawyer representing the grandchild in court.

The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents to not tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons including posting bail, repairing the grandchild’s car, covering lawyer’s fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.   

One couple in Wisconsin recently sent $19,000 to scammers posing as their grandson and his supposed lawyer. The scam has also targeted individuals in Alabama, ConnecticutIowa, Idaho, Kentucky, Utah, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Canada including residents of British Columbia and Manitoba.

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild in distress, BBB advises that you 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.  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. 

If you have fallen victim to the scam, BBB recommends that you report the incident immediately to local police and your state Attorneys General office. If there is a request to wire money to Canada, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre has established the PhoneBusters hotline and Web site to report such fraud. Reports can be filed easily online through the PhoneBusters site at: www.phonebusters.com, or by phone, toll free at, 1-888-495-8501.

For more information or to schedule an interview with a BBB spokesperson, contact Alison Southwick at 703-247-9376.