A scam that isn’t necessarily new is getting a lot of attention from the news media lately, perhaps because it is now happening to so many elderly Americans.
As far back as 2012 the FBI was warning people about the “grandparent scam.” Thieves target elderly Americans by calling them and saying something familiar, such as “Hi Grandma.” Then the person on the phone will tell a story of how much financial trouble they are in. It could be an arrest in another country. More recently it has been a DUI arrest in another state. It might be that the DUI claim is being used more frequently, because it gets better results. After all, grandma probably would have heard about a grandson traveling abroad, but a trip to another state is not that unusual.
Among the tricks the thieves use include acknowledging that they might not sound like the grandson or granddaughter, but perhaps they suffered a broken nose in a wreck. And they will beg their grandparents not to tell anyone, because it would be too embarrassing. They also mask the call to make it look like it’s coming from a familiar phone number.
The thieves are playing on the emotions of elderly Americans. According to some news reports the callers operate out of boiler rooms that appear innocuous enough, just a room full of cubicles. They only have to be successful once in a while, because each success can net thousands of dollars.
The additional risk is that many times the people sending the money do so in a way that their financial identity can be accessed later on, creating a whole new set of problems beyond the theft of money from the victim.
Law enforcement officials offer a few tips to those wondering if they are being scammed.
If you know someone who has been a victim of the grandparent scam or any scam that threatens to have the same kind of impact, tell him or her to check their credit reports every few months for the next couple of years to make sure they are not further victimized.
If you have been victimized by the scam, chances are you know someone else who has been called. If you are able to overcome your own embarrassment about being victimized, spread the word around to make sure others do not fall prey to this kind of scammer.
Most importantly, anytime anyone calls you asking for hundreds or even thousands of dollars and pressures you to come through, be extremely skeptical. Chances are good that someone is trying to tap your pocket book.