If you’re 70 or older there is an increasing chance that you have or will be called by a grandchild in trouble. Only this is not your grandchild, and you are the one in trouble. This phone scam has been around for a while, and the biggest bucks swindled by these scammers are sourced from seniors 70 and older.
The identity scam generally yields a loss to the person who answers the phone an average of $462 in general, without regard to age, but when you separate out the victims who are 70 years and older, they are bilked for a surprising average of $9,000 as fake grandchildren are pulling on their heartstrings begging for help. Components include,
“Help Gramma, I Need Your Help”
The faux grandchild will call the elder victim and claim that they are in the most difficult circumstance, a potentially compromising situation that if it were to become public knowledge, might reflect poorly on the family. Grandparents are often sensitive to these unforeseen challenges and are willing to offer assistance discretely.
“Don’t Tell Mom”
Of course, there is the need for secrecy. If anyone else in the family were to find out, they would be devastated. This is an important part of the scheme because if the victim of elder financial fraud were to tell anyone, they might give them the head’s up that this is probably a scam. Or they might know that the grandchild is not actually in Dayton, Ohio at the time.
The criminal caller usually reports that they are restrained by some legal scenario, like being held in jail, or potentially facing criminal charges. Another popular alternative includes being in an uninsured accident and potentially facing challenges or charges. The understanding sensitive senior victim compassionately responds with something like, “Oh, dear, is there anything I can do to help”
As a matter of fact, there is a way that the grandparent can help this criminal out. All these problems can be instantly dealt with by inserting cash into the circumstance. And here’s where the elder financial abuse becomes criminal. And the elder mark will have to send cash dollars via mail, usually stuffed into the pages of a magazine, to an address that the victim would not recognize.
More Cash Less Risk Crime
This approach designed to scam senior citizens is a variation of the family and friend imposter scam that’s been circulating for years. As you can see, it is much more profitable for the scammer to target the elderly. Plus, the elderly are less likely to report the crime as they could be labeled as a vulnerable adult and potentially lose some of their independence.
The last thing they want to do is put their children on alert to their vulnerability, so they withhold information on the crime, while the criminals are financing their dreams in paradise by scamming the elderly, with much less risk than victimizing younger individuals.
What Can You Do?
Talk to your elderly friends and relatives and let them know about the grandparent scam, so if they get a call from a desperate grandchild they reach out to the family to verify their condition and whereabouts before trying to help them. And if they confirm with other family members that they are missing, possible consider offering assistance, but NOT in the form of cash through the mail.
If You Are a Vulnerable Adult
Check with family members, even though the grandchild (possibly a criminal posing as your grandchild) makes you promise to keep this a secret.
Sometimes stalling for a few days will allow the scam to dissipate. This is because the criminals are always on the move, changing the addresses that cash is sent to. So, if you delay, the urgency and the calling go away, as they find new numbers of alternative grandparents to go with their new mailing address.
Tighten-up Your Social Media Info
These cybercriminals are scouring the Internet and social media for their next targets, by cleaning up your profile, you may be able to reduce the likelihood of you becoming an upcoming target.
Sent Cash Already?
Contact the carrier that the cash was sent by. There may be a chance that you can catch it before it gets delivered to the recipient.
Report the Incident
You can report the incident to national authorities, like ftc.gov/complaint and your information may be able to help then track down these criminals and your report may save someone else from getting ripped off.
You may also consider reporting the incident to your State Department of Health and Human Services as they may be able to provide you with counseling, support, and help.