I hate writing about scams, because they make me so angry, but better that I write about them and hopefully save a few people some grief. There is a scam specifically targeting grandparents, and the evidence suggests that some scammers are somehow targeting grandparents of military members specifically. It's not a new scam, and it is similar to many others, but the way it targets grandparents is unique.
In this scam, the bad guy contacts a grandparent, by telephone or Facebook message, and tells some story of woe, typically an accident, an arrest, or having their wallet and documents stolen. They ask to have money wired to them, or to have prepaid cards purchased and be given the numbers over the telephone or messaging service. Of course, these transactions can not be traced.
In another variation, the scammer pretends to be a friend of the victim's grandchild, such as one reported incident where the "friend" called the grandparent asking for help to get "Johnny" out of jail in Tijuana.
There are a couple of reasons why this scam is so successful. For starters, older people are more likely to have home phones, answer them, and have their number published in telephone directories. Because they spend more time at home, they are more available to take phone calls or respond to message. If they have social media accounts, they may not have their profiles as secure as more savvy, younger users. In addition, they are frequently more trusting and less likely to ask challenging questions. Also, seniors may have access to cash emergency funds.
How can you protect your family from this type of fraud? First, make sure that your older family members are aware of this scam. If they are ever approached with a request that sounds similar to this scam, they should:
- Attempt to contact the person who claims to be calling them.
- Try to verify the location of the person who is in trouble by checking with other relatives.
- Ask questions that only the caller would know, such as the name of a family pet, a favorite food made by the grandparent, or the type of car that the grandparent drives.
This type of fraud is big business. In 2014, a former scammer told CBS News that he could make up to $10,000 a day using this scam, with approximately 1 in 50 attempts ending successfully. It is estimated that senior citizens are scammed out of over $3 billion each year from all financial scams combined.
It's despicable, but it is happening. Awareness is the best way to prevent this type of fraud, so share this information with your friends and family.