Don’t let Grandma get burned by the ‘grandparent scam’

ID-10090006When I was a kid I could always count on my grandparents when I needed help. If it weren’t for them, I never would have made it through college and I’d probably still be stuck on the side of the road somewhere.

The thought of other sweet grannies and grandpas like mine being ripped off by criminals makes my blood boil.

BBB would like to remind you that Sunday, Sept. 8 is Grandparents Day. It’s a good time to warn seniors and the people who love them about the “grandparent scam.”

How the scam works: 

The grandparent gets a frantic call from someone who poses as a grandchild.  The scammer says he or she is in trouble–often stuck in another country or involved in an accident or emergency. The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents to not tell his or her parents and asks them to wire money to help immediately. A grandparent scammer knows grandparents love their grandkids and are usually willing to help them out of a jam.

Grandparents may know their grandkids’ voices in normal circumstances, but the scammers have done research for family details and might cry or otherwise make it hard to tell. If seniors wire money to the scammers, the transaction is untraceable and the money is gone for good. It’s like sending cash.

Unfortunately, con artists love grandparents as much as we do–but for different reasons. They know seniors are often trusting and willing to help loved ones. They know seniors can have Social Security income, pensions, investments and plenty in savings. Those qualities make them attractive targets.

The Consumer Sentinel Network shows a steady increase in impostor scam reports over the last several years, from just above 60,000 in 2010 to close to 83,000 in 2012. The grandparent scam is a common impostor scam targeted at senior citizens. If you are a senior or you know someone who is, it’s important to learn how these scammers work.

BBB offers these tips to avoid becoming victim to a grandparent scam:

  • Be skeptical. Ask questions only the grandchild could know the answer to, without revealing too much personal information yourself. Ask the name of a pet, a favorite dish or what school they attend. Your loved one should not get angry about you being too cautious.
  • Verify information. Check with the parents to see if their child is really travelling as they say they are.
  • Don’t wire money. Never use a transfer service to send money to someone you haven’t met in person, or for an emergency you haven’t verified is real.
  • Stay private. Check your privacy settings on all your social media sites. Scammers often make their stories more believable by trolling for information on Facebook, Twitter and similar sites.
  • Know where to turn. If you fall victim to a scam, report the incident to local police and your state Attorney General’s office.

– Posted on September 6, 2013 by

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1 Comment

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One response to “Don’t let Grandma get burned by the ‘grandparent scam’

  1. Mark Burrows

    Well, being a grandparent myself, I have to say that a large percentage of us are usually quite savvy and a lot more wary. It’s true that I still have a couple of decades to go before I am likely to be diagnosed as being feeble of mind, if such were to happen. But I have already assigned an executor to my estate who will have to cosign every transaction on my behalf with a legal firm if I become no longer sound in making decisions.
    I was also independent in my ways growing up, I worked hard mowing grass, shoveling walks, delivering papers, or any enterprise that allowed me to generate and save money. I paid my own way and earned my own scholarships for advanced education.
    I taught the same principles to my children who have grown into responsible adults and I can already see the same determination in my grandchildren that I spend as much time with as I wish teaching them tricks, gags, and practical jokes I never taught my children, as I knew it would be more fun to hold them back a generation. Now my children see another side of their father, that they suspect as revenge for their annoying behavior as children. They may be right.
    Point is, as I always say on this site. Be logical, be rational, and challenge what is before you. Look at anything that is out of the normal as a puzzle or a mystery that needs to be solved and seek a solution before you act.
    If you act out of pure emotion, then you are being neither logical or rational, you are experiencing a similar reaction to panic which is fight or flight.
    I am not saying that we should not have emotions, of course we need them, but we also need to stop, take a deep breath and rationalize why and what is causing the emotion. Then break it down with logic.
    I know it sounds time consuming, but it is not, if you practice and make a habit of it, you will react within a couple seconds. The way to practice is small things like hearing a glass break, where your first emotion would be anger, if you stop and think, take a breath, do you really need to be angry, is someone hurt, it can be cleaned up, and the glass can be replaced. Accidents do happen. Small things where you normally blow up, will diminish and you start to have better control of your emotions. This is the first step in being a person who can learn to be extremely helpful to others in being a calming factor, and less of a screaming maniac in face of disaster.
    We can all help our grandparents if we can teach them not to panic when they get calls. Ask for contact information because they do not have access to funds, then have them contact someone who can research the situation.

    Mark Burrows

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