Grandparents: It’s NOT your grandkids calling!

Friday, October 03, 2008

 

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning senior citizens to be aware of an emerging telephone scam that is preying on grandparents nationwide. BBB has recently received reports about grandparents from California to New Hampshire who thought they were aiding their grandchildren by providing money for an emergency situation but were in fact giving thousands of dollars to Canadian con artists.

According to the BBB, the scam works like this – the grandparent receives a distressed phone call from who they believe is their grandchild. The supposed grandchild typically explains that they are travelling in Canada and have been arrested or involved in an auto accident and need the grandparent to wire money to post bail or pay for damages—usually amounting to a few thousand dollars. While many seniors have reported the scam without falling prey to it, unfortunately, many others have been victimized. One well-meaning grandmother sent $15,000 to scammers, thinking she was helping a grandchild who had been in an auto accident.

This is a long-standing scam with a recent uptick in reports. Besides the BBB, several state Attorneys General have issued warnings. In addition, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre is reporting a significant increase in complaints for this scam. In 2007, the Centre received 128 complaints about this type of scam; since the beginning of this year, nearly 350 complaints have been filed, and about half were filed in July and August alone.

Law enforcement officials are not certain how perpetrators are obtaining phone numbers for so many senior citizens across the U.S. However, it is believed that scammers are most likely calling random numbers until they happen to reach a senior citizen. The scammers’ basic tactic is to pose as a grandchild and let the unsuspecting grandparent fill in the blanks. For example, the scam caller might say, “It’s me, your favorite grandchild,” to which the grandparent will guess the name of the grandchild it sounds the most like, and then the call proceeds from there.

To confirm the status of the individual, ask to call them back at a number you know, or verify the story with other family members.

Requests to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram are a “red flag” that the call may be a scam. Funds sent via wire transfer are hard to track once received by scammers and are usually not recoverable by law enforcement or banking officials. Do not wire money to anyone unless you are absolutely sure who the recipient is!

For more tips on senior fraud, read Consumer Action's Just Say No! to Senior Fraud.

 

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