Family members warned of spring break ‘Grandparent Scam’

Better Business Bureau Serving Acadiana is warning family members and especially well-meaning grandparents about “emergency” scams designed to fool them into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded and in need of money.
April 10, 2017

In BBB’s experience, this scam is especially prevalent during the spring, when many high school and college students head on vacation for spring break. BBB has received several calls on this scam in recent weeks and expects scammers to increase activity as Easter approaches.

According to recent FBI reports, the “Grandparent Scam” has been around since 2008, but there has been a surge in recent years as more and more Baby Boomers become grandparents.

Scammers impersonate their victims and make up an urgent situation – “I’ve been arrested,” “I’ve been mugged,” “I’m in the hospital” – and target friends and family with urgent pleas for help and money 

The "grandchild" pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for emergency reasons including posting bail, repairing the car, covering lawyer's fees or even paying hospital bills following injuries from a car accident.   

Retirees are an attractive target for financial scammers. These emergency scams play off of peoples’ emotions and strong desire to help others in need.

BBB offers the following tips to avoid the Grandparent Scam:

  • Start With Trust®. Check with BBB if you think you are being scammed.
  • Ask teens and young adults to share travel plans with family members before leaving on vacation. Teens should provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency.
  • If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their 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 the grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name.
  • Callers requesting that you not contact anyone else about their supposed plight – such as parents or other family members – is a sign you’re likely talking to a scammer. Despite that instinct to shield your grandchildren from additional trouble, say clearly, “I’m sorry, but I will need to contact them to verify what you’re telling me.” Be firm.

“Look for the Seal” and Start with Trust®. BBB Serving Acadiana is a private non-profit organization. BBB strives for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses.

Please contact Better Business Bureau at (337) 981-3497 24 or 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America. Consumers can also sign up for our free BBB “Scoop” eNewsletter by visiting and clicking on the “Programs & Services” tab.

BBB Serving Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.