During the “Grandparent Scam”, a fraudster contacts an innocent person over the phone and claims to be his or her grandchild. The caller pretends to be in trouble (in the hospital, in jail or stuck in a foreign country) and in need of financial help. The “grandchild” will include details that make the situation seem incredibly believable, and of course, the “grandparent” wants to help.
The fraudster will request that money be sent via wire transfer as soon as possible. Often the caller will say that a lawyer, doctor or police officer, someone in an authoritative position, will call the victim to verify the situation. The scammer will also advise the grandparent “not to tell mom and dad”.
This scam takes advantage of the older people in our community who would immediately respond to help their loved ones. The caller speaks to them in a distraught manner, making the victim feel as though he or she must act immediately.
In 2017, nearly one in five people reported losing money in an impostor scheme like the grandparent scam, amounting to a loss of $328 million, according to the FTC. Those aged 70 and older have suffered the highest average losses.
Fraudsters obtain personal information about their victims so they can make their stories plausible. They often use social networking sites to obtain the names, ages and affiliations of the people they pose as.
How to protect yourself during this scam:
- If you do receive such a call, pause for a moment before panicking or sending money.
- Verify the caller’s identity by asking questions someone else couldn’t possibly answer, such as the name and species of your grandchild’s first pet.
- Hang up the phone and call the family member or the person who supposedly called you. If he or she doesn’t answer, call the parents or someone else who could verify the location of that person.
- If the caller requests a wire transfer, such as through Western Union or MoneyGram, an overnight delivery of cash or a check, or a prepaid card/gift card, you can bet it is a scam. Wire transfers and overnight delivery services are untraceable and therefore commonly used in scams.
- Hospitals, courts, etc. will not accept gift cards as a payment method.
How to protect yourself now:
If you’re a victim of a grandparent scam or another form of fraud, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.Return to main Fraud Alerts page