As if growing old wasn’t hard enough as it is, scams and crimes against the elderly have become rampant. A particularly odious and disturbing scam that has been plaguing the elderly is the so-called “grandparent scam.”

Someone calls pretending they’re your grandson or granddaughter. They’re in big trouble and rushed for time. They may claim to be in police custody and in need of bail.

Another popular story follows the line of a terrible accident. In some cases, the caller claims to need to get home from abroad. They ask you not to involve their parents as they would be so disappointed.

The main line running through all these storylines is the urgency and the need for you to act quickly and send a wire. In most cases, your “grandchild” may give you the coordinates of a third person, such as a lawyer, friend, or friendly police officer that can help enlighten you on how best to proceed and give you the full details of their presumed plight.

These types of confidence scams rely on personal information and emotional blackmail. They are designed to pluck at your heartstrings to the rhythm of an urgent situation. These scammers hope to achieve a temporary disorientation in their victims that will make them wire money before they have time to analyze the situation and discover the scam.

The sad truth is that it works. Scammers have absconded with more than 300 million dollars in 2017, achieving the most success with the 70+ age group.

Random or Targeted?

Though scammers may call people randomly, the majority of victims are targeted. These criminals tend to be part of an elaborate organization that researches beforehand to maximize their success.

They can glean relevant information on you via social media, such as Facebook, or they can hack email accounts. From these locations they can get a shopping list of personal information including details of relatives and friends.

Remember, their details don’t need to be comprehensive, just plausible. It helps if the scammer can mention that he had tried to call Uncle Ted in Oklahoma, but no one was picking up, leaving you as your “grandchild’s” only means of salvation.

What to do?

Since the idea of the scam depends on suspending your rational thought process, you should make every effort to remain rational. Being forewarned of the existence of such scams, you should now pause before taking action if you hear anything like this. Analyze the situation.

You can start by asking your “grandchild” concrete and targeted questions that only he or she would know. Try to get details of something that is not mentioned in an email or on social media.

If possible, you could ask enough questions to break though the elaborate construct of their story to see if it holds up under scrutiny.

Contact your grandchild on their personal phone number. In most cases, they’ll pick up the phone, thus confirming that the previous call was a scam. You should do this even if the scammers have called late to dissuade you from checking up on your family due to the late hour. If you are dealing with scammers, merely threatening to call “your grandchild” back or to call their parents can cause the line to go dead.

Another clue that you’re dealing with a scam is the payment method demanded by the scammers. Being criminals, they need their loot to be untraceable. This is why they tend to opt for wire transfers such as Western Union and MoneyGram, an overnight delivery service or courier.

In some cases, they even demand a gift card or a prepaid card and will ask you to read the numbers so that they can empty them. This is a dead giveaway. No court, hospital, or public transport firm is likely to accept a gift card as a mode of payment.

Prevention

Scammers are predators and favor easy prey. Don’t be that prey. Tighten up your security settings online, and don’t open attachments from persons unknown. If caller ID doesn’t recognize your caller, in most cases, neither should you. This is happening all over, even Nevada. If you would like to learn more about this topic or others contact us today.