Grandparent Phone Call Scam
The "Grandparent" Scam
The "Grandparent Scam" is a common phone scam that targets senior citizens with calls from fraudsters that pose as a grandchild of the victim. The scam typically involves the senior getting an unexpected call from someone who claims to be their grandchild. The caller says there is an emergency and asks the grandparent to immediately send money. They may also specify not to tell their parents. For example, the caller might say, "Grandma, I’m in Mexico and got arrested for drunk driving. I need bail money fast." Or the caller may claim to have been mugged while away from home, or that their car broke down while on vacation.
The caller sometimes poses as an attorney or a law enforcement official contacting the grandparent on behalf of a grandchild. Some fraudster will stay on the phone with their "grandparent" guiding them on how and where to send the money. Victims may also be instructed to go out and buy pre-paid debit cards or gift cards and then read the serial numbers on the back of the card, allowing the fraudsters to transfer the funds. The reason they stay on the phone is so the "grandparent" doesn’t get a chance to call anyone to verify the situation.
The scammers may call in the middle of the night to take advantage of the fact that the victim may not be alert enough to ask more questions, and that the victim may not want to disturb other family members by calling them to confirm the information.
Victims often lose thousands of dollars and the money is rarely recovered, as the scammers can be calling from anywhere in the world. The scan is severely underreported, as many victims are embarrassed and do not want to tell anyone that they fell for the scam.
Please be suspicious of these types of calls. Here are a few tips to protect yourself against the Grand Parent Scam:
- Be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly asking you to send money
- Never purchase pre-paid debit cards or gift cards for the purpose of transferring money.
- Develop a secret code or "password" with family members that can be used to verify the identity of family members over the phone.
- Ask a question that only the real grandchild would know the answer to, such as "what was the name of your first pet?"
- Verify any supposed emergency by calling friends and family before sending money.
- Never send money to someone calling you on the phone.
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission received 18,912 complaints of individuals impersonating family members and friends, up from 15,076 in 2016. Protect yourself from these types of scams and remember, if it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.