Don’t Get Caught in a Grandparent Scam

grandmother with 3 granddaughters

If you are a grandparent, have a grandparent, or simply know someone who is a grandparent, PLEASE share this information with them. There are so many scams going around these days and unfortunately some of them prey on those we love the most. Like most grandparents, my mom would do just about anything to help her grandkids and that is just what scammers are hoping for. They take advantage of older generations by pulling at their heartstrings.

Scammers will capitalize on anything to pull off another ruse, even the special bond between a grandparent and grandchild. Grandparent scams are not new but have gotten super sneaky in recent years, which makes them difficult to spot. Here’s what you need to know about grandparent scams and how to avoid them.

How the scams play out

There are several variations of the grandparent scam. In each one, the caller claims to be a grandchild of the target. The scammer often spoofs the grandchild’s number so it shows up on the grandparent’s phone. This means that the phone number on the screen says it is the grandchild’s but IT ISN’T!

  • The legal trouble scam. In this ruse, a scammer claiming to be their grandchild will call and claim to have been arrested. The “grandchild” asks them to send money for posting bail. They’ll pass the phone to an alleged representative to accept the funds via wire transfer or gift cards. But this is just the scammer’s partner in crime; not a real authority figure. Most of the time with a scam like this, the person on the other end of the phone will act like it is urgent and the grandparent has to respond immediately or it will be bad for the child. They do not want to give the grandparent enough time to really think it through or call to verify this is real. Do not be scared into action.
  • The medical trouble scam. This version of the grandparent scam involves a “grandchild” calling up Grandma or Grandpa and claiming to be seriously injured. They’ll ask for money to help pay the medical bills. Again, take a breath, take a beat, and call someone to verify this information.
  • The international trouble scam. In this scam, a “grandchild” calls and claims they’re in deep trouble in a foreign country. They’ll ask for a big chunk of money to be sent by wire transfer or prepaid debit card for them to get out safely. This version usually occurs during a time when teens and/or young adults are likely to be traveling, such as during spring break or summer vacation.

If you’re targeted

If you believe you’re being targeted by a grandparent scam or a similar ruse, follow these steps to keep yourself safe:

  1. Don’t take immediate action. Pause and think it through before blindly sending money.
  2. Ask the caller to answer a personal question only your grandchild will know.
  3. Check your grandchild’s whereabouts by hanging up and calling your grandchild directly. Chances are, your grandchild is just fine.
  4. Hang up and report the crime to your local police department and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

Safety rules to know

It’s a good idea to follow these rules for protection from grandparent scams and other ruses:

  • Never share personal info online or on the phone with an unverified contact.
  • If you’re asked to pay for something via money transfer or prepaid gift card, it’s probably a scam.
  • Put your number on the no call list.
  • Keep your social media privacy settings at their strongest and limit what you share on public forums.

Grandparent scams are especially nefarious as they exploit the special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren. Use the tips outlined here to stay safe. And as always, if you feel you have fallen victim to any of these scams, contact us as soon as possible!

Stay safe!

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