Phony Grandchild Scam Continues to Target Senior Citizens Nationwide

In every version of this scam, the con artist uses a common technique—playing on the emotions of a potential victim

Phony Grandchild Scam Continues to Target Senior Citizens Nationwide
Image: Pexels
February 26, 2018

Scam artists are continuing to target senior citizens all across the country with modified versions of a familiar scheme.

The Phony Grandchild

In most versions of the scam, a caller poses as the victim's grandchild. The phony grandchild claims to have gotten into trouble while traveling overseas, saying that he/she needs money sent right away to get out of the jam. Unfortunately for the scammer, many seniors targeted by this scam knew with certainty that there grandchildren were not overseas. So, the crooks adapted their scheme.

In more recent attempts, the phony grandchild pretends to have caused a bad accident that injured a foreign tourist visiting the U.S. and claims to be in a local jail until he or she pays the tourist's medical bill. The scammer tells the victim that the money needs to be sent overseas because the injured tourist is returning home to recover.

In yet another recently reported incarnation of this con, the scam artist claims that they were leaving a funeral with friends when their car was involved in an accident. After being arrested for DUI or possession of drugs, they tell the victim that they need money to post bail. Then another person takes the phone claiming to be an attorney or law officer. They instruct the frightened grandparent on how to send the needed funds, usually via Wal Mart or Sam's Club gift cards or by sending cash via UPS or Fed Ex.

Playing on the emotions of a potential victim

In every version of what is often referred to as the grandparent scam, the granny scam, or the grandmother scam, the con artist is using a common scam technique—playing on the emotions of a potential victim. In this case, that victim is a grandparent who wants to help their grandchild or clergy member. In each instance of the scam, the ultimate goal is the same: to get the grandparent to wire a large amount of cash overseas.

According to a recent warning issued by Ohio's Attorney General, the average victim of the grandparent scam loses $4,000 to the scammers.

The North Carolina Attorney General's Office also reports that North Carolina consumers have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to this scam in recent years. Just this month, three grandparent fell victim to the scam, losing a total of $44,900. So far in 2017, 32 victims have lost more than $184,000 in North Carolina alone.

Once it's gone, it's gone

Remember, once you've wired money to another country, it's gone. Be skeptical anytime someone asks you to send money overseas, no matter who they claim to be. Ask the person questions that only your real family member would be able to answer, or hang up and contact the person directly to make sure the request is legitimate.

Most importantly, NEVER give out personal information to anyone who calls you on the telephone, emails you or contacts you online.

Report all suspected scams

If you think that you or someone you know might have been scammed or contacted by a scammer, report it to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office or your state's Attorney General.

Complaints can also be submitted to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is co-sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).