The “Grandparent Scam,” as it’s often referred to, has become one of the most reported scams to the Better Business Bureau in the past few years. According to the FBI, this con has been around since at least 2008. Unfortunately, this scam that preys on one of the most vulnerable populations, the elderly, is still bilking consumers out of their hard earned savings.
The scam typically progresses something like this: The “grandson” or “granddaughter” calls grandma or grandpa to say that he has been arrested for speeding, drug possession, in a car accident, a fight, has been mugged, is in the hospital, etc., and that he or she urgently needs money for bail. They then turn the call over to a person claiming to be a police officer, lawyer, or other official. Convinced that their grandchild needs immediate help, the elderly victim rushes to their bank to wire transfer the money, or to the post office to get a money-order to support their grandchild and sends it to the scammer.
Another version of this scam is that the grandchild calls out of the blue to tell their grandparents that they’re on vacation in Canada, Europe, Mexico, etc. and are out of money, and stuck. They then ask for money to purchase tickets to “return home.”
Fortunately, this is an easy scam to avoid as long as you don’t act in the moment, and let your emotions get the best of you.
“If you receive a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild in distress, 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. Did the caller refer to you by the name they always call you – ‘Nana,’ ‘Granny,’ ‘Pop,’ or ‘Pa’ for instance, instead of ‘Grandma,’ or ‘Grandpa?’”
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. You should also be sure to call your son or daughter and confirm the details – even if your ‘grandchild’ says not to tell mom or dad.
According to the FTC, Americans lost more than $73 million to impostor scams last year. While the agency admits the figure accounts for only a fraction of the problem because most victims fail to report the crime, instances of imposter scams have doubled between 2009 and 2013.