Grandparent Scam Hits Southern Arizona

February 12, 2010
Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is warning consumers to be on the lookout for a resurgence of the “grandparent scam,” which last year targeted victims around the country, including Tucson.

BBB has received reports from grandparents from across the country who thought they were aiding their grandchildren by providing money for an emergency situation, but were in fact giving thousands of dollars to Canadian con artists.

Last year the scam claimed a local victim when 74-year-old Alice Clark answered a call at her Tucson home from someone whom she thought she was her grandson Josh.

“I was just so sure it was him,” said Clark, who tapped into her savings account for  $8,000. “He sounded so distressed. He asked me to keep everything confidential because he was embarrassed and didn’t want the family to know what had happened.”

It wasn’t until she didn’t hear back from her grandson that Clark called his home and he surprisingly answered the phone. It was at that moment she knew she had been robbed.

“It was just like somebody threw ice water on me,” she said.

“Once you send money to Canada, there’s no hope of getting it back,” says Kim States, BBB president. “A good rule of thumb is to never wire money out of the country unless you initiated contact with that relative or friend and you know for a fact they are where they say they are.”

BBB offers the following tips to protect against this scam:

• Don’t fill in the blanks for the caller: In Clark’s example, the scammer asks a leading question “Hello grandma; do you know who this is?” and he is provided with a name. Ask a lot of questions, and those that have answers only your family should know: “What’s your daughter’s name?” or “How old were you when…?” You’ll learn quickly enough if it’s a con artist, says States.

• Do whatever is necessary to confirm your relative’s whereabouts. Get off the phone and call your grandchild’s home, school or work to verify what you’ve been told.

• Don’t wire money. If a caller asks for your bank account number or urges you to wire money for any reason, it’s likely a scam. Cons prefer wire transfers because they are fast, and funds can be picked up easily and just about anywhere.

If you are a victim of this scam file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at, 877-382-4357 or contact your BBB at (520) 888-5353 in Tucson, or (520) 459-2880 in Cochise County for more information.