Who’s calling? How to spot the grandparent scam in action
All parents dread getting an emergency phone call from our children. Now, imagine you’re a senior and you get a call out of the blue from your grandchild in distress. Of course you want to do whatever you can to help.
But what if the person on the line isn’t who they say they are? Some seniors have gotten calls from scammers posing as grandkids to try to steal their money. The so-called grandparent scam has been around for years and is now more popular than ever.
Con artists who use this ploy tend to prey on seniors who may suffer from memory or hearing loss. The caller claims to be a grandchild in trouble who needs money but wants to keep it a secret from their parents because they’re embarrassed or don’t want to upset them. The caller then gives detailed instructions about how to wire them hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
My office recently heard from a 92 year-old Charlotte man who lost $3,300 to this scam. He got a call from someone who said he was his grandson. Since the man is hard of hearing, he responded by saying his grandson’s name – which the scammer then used to gain his trust. The fake grandson said he’d been in an accident and needed money wired to him in South Carolina so he could get his car fixed. He even promised to pay grandpa back once he received his insurance check.
A few days later, the Charlotte senior called his grandson to check on him. He learned that he hadn’t been in an accident and hadn’t called his grandfather for help.
People on social networking sites such as Facebook have been hit recently by a similar scheme. The scammer hacks into someone’s account and posts a message for their friends saying that he or she is in trouble and needs money wired right away.
To avoid falling for the grandparent scam and similar schemes:
- If you get a call or a message asking for help, hang up or log off and contact the friend or family member directly to make sure the request is legitimate.
- Ask the person questions that only your real family member or friend would be able to answer
- Never give out personal information to anyone who calls you on the telephone, emails you or contacts you online.
- Be careful when wiring money in response to a phone call, email or online message. Many scams start with a call and end up with victims wiring away their hard-earned money. Once the money gets picked up, it’s difficult if not impossible to get it back.