There are many scams designed to prey on the elderly, one of which is the “Grandparent Scam”. Victims have been reporting this scam since 2008, but the scam has evolved over the last few years to become more sophisticated and now utilizes tactics that make the scammer even more believable.
The original “Grandparent Scam” has claimed many victims by taking advantage of the love and concern of grandparents for their grandchildren. In most cases, the victim receives a call from an individual claiming to be their grandchild and is then asked for money because the supposed grandchild is in trouble in a foreign country. The victim is told not to call the grandchild’s parents or tell anyone because the grandchild doesn’t want to get in trouble. They are urged to act quickly and send the money via money transmittal service such as Western Union or MoneyGram to the foreign country immediately to rescue the grandchild. Both of these demands are red flags that may indicate a scam.
As consumers are becoming wise to the scam, scammers are adapting to make them even more difficult to detect. They’ve resorted to emails as well as phone calls, and are targeting a wider range of individuals claiming to be the target’s niece, nephew, or other family member. Sometimes the caller even claims to be a law enforcement officer or lawyer representing their loved one and asking for the money to be wired to them on their loved ones behalf. Some reports indicate that scammers are teaming up and calling potential victims together. One scammer impersonates the law enforcement officer or lawyer and states that the loved one is in trouble and needs their financial assistance, then hands the phone to a second scammer that impersonates a crying and very upset loved one.
Previously, most scammers didn’t have any knowledge of the family or the person they were impersonating. They would make random calls until they found someone that took the bait. Some scammers would call in the middle of the night to take advantage of individuals who weren’t fully awake. Victims report that the scammer would be vague at first saying, “Hi Grandma, it’s your favorite grandchild,” and wait until the victim would respond with more information such as, “David, is that you?” Recently, scammers have turned to the internet and social media to research their victims and the loved ones they’re impersonating, making their act even more believable.
The FBI has also received reports that this scam is targeting military families as well. A scammer may find information about a solider on a social networking site and then contact his or her grandparents or loved ones claiming that a problem has come up during military leave that requires financial assistance.
Use these tips to protect yourself:
- Ask questions of the caller that only the person they say they are would know. For instance, what was the name of their first pet, or what is their mother’s birthday.
- Resist the urge to act quickly.
- Contact the person the caller is claiming to be directly. If you cannot reach him/her contact someone who is in direct contact with them regularly, a parent or friend.
- Do not wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an email, especially to a foreign country.
- Urge family members to resist from putting personal information on social media sites, like when they’ll be away for vacation, their complete birthdate with year, etc.
Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer and keep it up to date. Using a firewall is also recommended. Do not open attachments in emails from strangers; doing so can enable crooks to get into your computer remotely.
If you think you’ve been involved with, or are in a Grandparent scam, please report it at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).
Consumers who believe they have fallen victim to a scam or who would like to report fraudulent activity may do so at www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/complaint. For additional information please call our office at 800-222-4444.