Between 2015 and 2020’s first quarter, the Federal Trade Commission logged at least 91,000 incidents involving fraud against senior citizens. As reported by the AARP, con artists often contact older adults by phone and impersonate their relatives.
Known as the “Grandparent Scam,” unscrupulous individuals pose as grandchildren and pretend to have run into serious trouble. Speaking frantically over the phone, scammers convince seniors to send them money to help them get out of jail.
How the scam typically works
According to the FBI, before calling a senior citizen, scammers review his or her social media accounts. After finding information about grandchildren, con artists learn a few private family matters to discuss with targeted seniors. Fraudsters then connect with vulnerable individuals by posing as their grandchildren.
Pretending to call from jail or a hospital’s emergency room, the impersonator claims to need money for a lawyer or doctor. A scammer depends on a fast response and may ask a senior to send money quickly by wire transfer or adding funds to a prepaid card.
Signs of a fraudulent caller
As noted by the FCC, scammers use apps to change phone numbers appearing on caller IDs. After obtaining information about relatives, con artists change their outgoing phone number ID. The intent is to make it appear they called from a grandchild’s cellphone.
As advised by the FBI, if a caller immediately begins asking for money, seniors should use caution and not respond to claims of a relative in urgent need. Scams often follow storylines such as needing money to pay for a drunken-driving accident.
Vulnerable adults could fall victim to the grandparent scam. When a caller begins to bully, harass or pressure an individual to send money quickly, seniors should hang up and report the call to law enforcement.