Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Indiana warns that senior citizens are the target of ongoing “Grandparent Scams.” These scams target well-meaning seniors, tricking them into thinking that their grandchild is experiencing an emergency and in need of money to get to safety. The BBB has received reports of this scam as early as 2008.
A Fort Wayne man recently reported receiving a phone call stating that his grandson was in jail and $12,000 was needed to bail him out. In the background, the grandparent heard what he believed to be his grandson begging for help and claiming that he was being mistreated. In some cases, the scammer may even know personal details about the victim’s grandchild, often gathered from posts on social media.
The victim went to his local bank, BBB Accredited Business ProFed Federal Credit Union, to authorize the transfer. Thankfully, the teller was trained to spot fraud and denied the transfer due to the suspicious nature of the request. The victim said the teller informed him that the phone call was a scam.
The victim called the scammer back and the call went to a Domino’s Pizza. He was able to contact his grandson directly and confirm his safety.
“The grandparent scam preys on the love of a grandparent for their grandchildren and has proven to be an extremely lucrative con for scammers,” said Marjorie Stephens, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Northern Indiana. “Educating the public about scams like these is so important and we thank the ProFed staff for recognizing the red flags and helping this consumer avoid a significant financial loss.”
Use these tips to recognize and avoid a Grandparent Scam:
Communicate. Loved ones should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country. Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.
Know the red flags. Discuss this scam with older family members so they are aware of how the scam works. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild or a so-called “officer of the court”. The caller explains that the grandchild has gotten into trouble and needs help. The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars immediately.
Ask a personal question and don’t disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, do not disclose any information before confirming the identity of the grandchild. If a caller says, “It’s me, Grandma!” don’t respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know such as their middle name or what gift they gave the grandchild for Christmas.
Discuss with family members. Even though the scammer will plead with you to keep this a secret from the parents, discuss the situation with someone and chances are you will find that your grandchild is safe and secure at home.
Don’t wire any money if there is any doubt. In a situation like this, resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the caller’s story is. If a person does wire money and later realizes it is a fraud, the police need to be alerted.
If you spot a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/ScamTracker. Your story may help other consumers avoid similar scams.