Grandparent Scams Hit the Elderly Hard

Common Grandparent Scam Scenarios

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Telephone scams have been around for years, and even now in a world where Caller ID is prevalent, it is still fairly common to scam people via telephone. One of the most common and vile scams is the "grandparent scam."

Imagine if you are a grandparent, and you receive a desperate call or email from someone claiming to be your grandson. He says he has been arrested; he needs money to pay his bail and begs you not to tell his parents.

This works well because the elderly may be hard of hearing, and they are more easily confused with technology and concepts. When someone they love, such as a grandchild, is in trouble, they will do all they can to help, and scammers know this. As soon as the grandparent starts to question, "Is this Jimmy?" The scammer knows that they have a good chance of completing this scam without issue.

Once this "relationship" between grandparent and grandson is established, the scammer moves on to take advantage of the love the grandparent has for the grandson, "Jimmy." The scammer tells a story, such as they have been arrested, stranded or lost their wallet. As soon as the grandparent agrees to help the grandson out, the scammer gives specific instructions on how to send the money, and they try to get as much as possible from the victim.

In most cases, the grandparent becomes hooked within the first minute of the call, and once they are, the scammer can take full advantage of them for money, and, they will take all the money they have in the world.

Of course, since they believe their beloved grandchild is on the other end of the message or call, they give this money willingly.

Common Grandparent Scam Scenarios

There are several common scenarios that scammers use to take advantage of grandparents. They include:

  • A grandparent receives an early morning or late night phone call from their "grandchild." This is the optimal time for taking advantage of grandparents as they are awoken or tired, and may not be able to think clearly. Usually, the scenario is either the grandchild is traveling abroad, has gotten into a car accident or has been mugged, and they need money as soon as possible.
  • A grandparent receives a call from someone who claims to be a lawyer, doctor, police officer or another person who has information from the grandchild. The same story is told, of course, but in this case, it may even seem more dire.
  • Military families are also often targeted in this way, as a scammer will look at a soldier's social media pages, contact his or her grandparents, and explain that the grandchild is on military leave and has a problem of some sort that requires money.
  • Scammers go to Facebook and seek out elderly and look at their relationships. Once they determine who their grandkids are it’s easy to pose as them when making contact. 

Grandparents are most commonly contacted, but scammers also contact other people or claim to be other people such as a family friend, nephew, niece or another family member.

Protecting Yourself Against the Grandparent Scam

There are a few ways that you can protect yourself from this scam. For instance, if contacted by someone claiming to be a grandchild in trouble, try not to react too quickly. You should also try to contact your grandchild or another member of the family to try to determine the legitimacy of the call. Also, even if you think it is legitimate, it is important to never wire money based on a request from someone in an email or phone call.

Remember, when you wire money, it is the same as giving cash, and once it is gone, it is gone.

If you or someone you know have the possibility of falling for a scam like this, you should do some research and educate them. Also, it's a good idea to put a plan into place to make it more difficult for withdrawals to be made without a cosigner.