Beware the “grandparent scam”

The special bond grandparents share with their grandchildren is used as leverage among the worst types of scammers. The “grandparent scam” has been making the rounds in various incarnations for years, and losses victims suffer are among the highest of all scam types.



How It Works
A person claiming to be your grandchild in an urgent situation calls in a frantic state and asks you to send money immediately, most likely by purchasing gift cards or wiring money.
The impostor offers just enough detail about where and how the emergency happened to make it seem plausible, and perhaps turns the phone over to another scammer who pretends to be a doctor, police officer or lawyer and backs up the story.
The call may come late at night. Scammers figure targets may get confused more easily if they call then.



What You Should Know
The scammer will try to rush you into a fast decision — take a pause before taking action.
Scammers fish for facts they can use to make the impersonation believable. For example, if the caller says, “It’s me, grandpa!” don’t say your grandchild’s name. Wait for the caller to say it.
Scammers can use phone tricks to make it appear that they’re calling from a trusted number, so don’t rely on caller ID. Fraudsters have also been known to play this trick by email, text message and social media.



What You Should Do
Set the privacy settings on your social media accounts so that only people you know can access your posts and photos. Scammers search Facebook, Instagram and other social networks for family information they can use to deceive you.
Ask questions someone else is unlikely to be able to answer, such as the name and type of your grandchild’s first pet.
Say you’ll call right back, then call your grandchild’s usual phone number. With luck, he or she will answer, and you’ll know that the call is a scam.
Contact other family members or friends and see if they can verify the story. Scammers plead with you to keep the emergency a secret precisely so you won’t try to confirm it.
If you have been targeted or victimized by the grandparent scam, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 1‑877‑908‑3360 for guidance and support.




When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams. Please share this alert with friends and family and visit the Fraud Watch Network for more information.
Kathy Stokes
AARP Fraud Watch Network