Senior Citizen Scams

Senior Citizen Scams
Scams targeting senior citizens come in all types and sizes, range greatly in complexity, and may originate from someone close to you or a stranger halfway around the world.

Below is information on some of the more common types of scams. Keep in mind that scam artists constantly reinvent new ways to perpetrate old scams. Because knowing how to spot a scam is important, we have put together a publication titled How to Spot a Scam that outlines some of the tell-tale red flags of a scam.

How the Scam Works
The person receives a phone call initiated with a phrase like, “Hi Grandma/Grandpa! Do you  know who this is?”, or something similar. If the grandparent responds with a name, the con artist assumes the name is a grandchild’s and uses it to pose as the grandchild. The “grandchild” describes some type of urgent trouble, often in a foreign country, and begs the grandparent to immediately wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram to pay for medical treatment, bail money, auto repair, or a ticket home. By claiming that they are embarrassed or there is no time to talk to others, the con artist tries to dissuade the grandparent from contacting the grandchild’s parents or friends.

Some con artists may investigate the identity of the grandchild before the initial phone call or pretend to be a third party, such as a government official or a bail bondsman. The involvement of a family member, an immediate need for money, and a request for secrecy are the hallmarks of this scam.

Grandparents Scam:

  • What to Look For
    • A phone call claiming to be about or from a grandchild or other family member in distress.
    • An urgent need for money to be secretly wire transferred, often to a foreign country.
  • Avoid the Grandparents Scam
    Avoid the Grandparents Scam by verifying a caller’s identity and resisting pressure to act before the caller’s identity is verified.
  • Verify the Caller’s Identity
    Contact a family member who could confirm the caller’s story. Try contacting the real grandchild at a number you know is accurate. You can also ask questions of the caller, the answers to which only the real grandchild would know. Be attentive to whether the caller is answering in detail or just guessing the answers. Remember, while some fraudsters investigate the grandchildren to make their impersonations more accurate, many depend upon their intended victims providing necessary information over the phone. Do not give out names or other information about family members unless you are certain of the identity of the caller. There may even be some similarities between your real grandchildren and a fraudster’s impersonations. For example, some grandparents have a grandchild traveling in Canada when they receive a fraudulent phone call claiming that their grandchild needs money to return home. Even if a story seems to be true at first, verify its accuracy.

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