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The Grandparent Scam

06 06 S The Grandparent Scam - The Grandparent Scam

American senior citizens have become the target of vicious scammers who pretend to be their grandchildren. One such victim is an elderly man named Sam (not his real name), who was called by a fraudster through his workplace landline. The scammer started politely by greeting the elderly gentleman, referring to him as grandfather’. Sam was unable to recognize the voice and asked the caller to identify himself. The scammer said that he was the gentleman’s grandson Rick, who resided in San Antonio with Sam’s granddaughter Sally. The fraudster offered to inform Sam of a secret that Sam was not to share with anyone. Of course, this was meant to captivate Sam the more.


What Sam had not realized so far was that he was a victim of a well-choreographed financial scam that targeted many grandparents across the country. According to the FTC, nearly 11,000 elderly citizens were targeted in 2015 alone. The authority noted that sadly, the actual amount in dollars lost to the scammers may not be fully appreciated as most of the victims do not report their ordeal to the relevant state or federal authorities.


Keen to listen to the purported grandson’, Sam lent his ears to the caller. The narrative that followed was one that many grandparents have unfortunately known only too well. The scammer informed Sam that the previous night, as he and Sally were driving to a hotel from a trip; they had been stopped by the police. In the ensuing encounter, the fraudster continued, the police officer had discovered a stash of cannabis in the trunk of their taxi. They were therefore arrested and detained at the local precinct. The fraudster informed Sam that he had recruited the services of an attorney to sort out the matter. Of course, the fraudster knew that mentioning an authority figure like an attorney would lend credence to his narrative.


By this time, Sam was not only stunned by the narrative, but he had also been fully absorbed. However, the elderly gentleman realized was that if Sally owned a home, then what was his grandson’ and his sister doing going to a hotel? He became suspicious.


Totally confounded, Sam asked the youngster whether they actually had the drugs in the car. He was informed that the drugs belonged to the taxi driver, and that he (the conman) had been asked by the authorities to remain in San Antonio for the following four to six weeks; awaiting the completion of the taxi driver’s trial. He continued to say that the police had agreed to release them on a bond of $2,000 – as surety that they would present themselves for the duration of the trial.


Sam knew very well that both Sally and Ken were college students, who were due to resume their academic courses in two days’ time. The fraudster used this to create urgency in his plea.


The fake grandson asked Sam to talk to his lawyer, who he said was right beside him. Of course, the ploy was designed in way that the fraudster had a standby henchman to help him in his scheme. Fortunately, caution got the better of Sam, and he was quick to note that the background noise was very much uncharacteristic of a typical police station.


Being doubtful of the caller’s identity, Sam asked the scammer to contact their relatives in San Antonio, as Sam himself was too far away. To press his point home, Sam asked the caller to state his exact address. Feeling cornered, the fraudster disconnected the call.


Sam was unable to identify the scammer as his phone did not have a caller ID. It is conceivable that the call could have been from anywhere. According to FTC, such calls could originate from anywhere – even overseas.


The scariest part of this ordeal is the fact that the fraudster will refer to you by your own name, the names of your children and grandchildren, and other such personal details. Sam was scared by the fact that the fraudster actually knew where his granddaughter was living. FTC claims that the fraudsters buy or steal such information. We also inadvertently give away the information when we include intimate details about our life on commonly accessible social media platforms. Fraudsters will often frequent Twitter, Facebook and other platforms in hunt for personal data on their victims.


When the conman hung up, Sam sent out a group email to all his family members to alert them about the scammer. Surprisingly, he discovered that two other elderly gentlemen in his family had been victims of similar scams. In fact, one of them in Kentucky had been quick enough to discredit the fraudster, and when he threated to call the police, the scammer promptly hung up.


The other one was a resident of California. He received a call from a purported grandson, who claimed that he had been imprisoned for having been involved in a drunken brawl; and that he required $1,500 to post as bail. The fraudster said that his voice had changed as he had broken his nose in the fight. The scammer was able to convince the elderly man to send the money via Western Union, a branch of which was located near his home.


According to government sources, the fraudsters aim at making you so distressed that you forget to reason logically. After sending the money and getting back to the house, the grandpa received another call from the fraudster. He claimed that the first amount was not enough. That is when the elderly man realized that he was a victim of a scam, and hung up the phone. He called his wife and alerted her of what had happened. They also notified the police.


It has been noted that fraudsters will often call numbers randomly until they get that of a senior citizen, whom they consider as soft targets. They often paint a picture of a grandchild in trouble who needs financial help.

The lesson of the above narrative is clear. If you ever get a call from anyone saying that they are your grandchild and in need of urgent cash, do not be quick to act on that request. Tell them that you need to consult with other family members, ask for their phone number and address, and then hang up the phone. Then, go ahead to confirm if the situation is as depicted by the caller. That action could very easily save your money, and prevent you from becoming a victim yourself.


Have other questions about how to protect your finances and to take care of your loved ones in meaningful ways? Be sure to reach out to us for ideas on how we can help you.

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