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Don’t Fall For the Grandparent Scam

We talk a lot about scams—specifically those being conducted over the phone. The reason we do so is because they just keep happening and evolving. Scammers keep iterating on their technique and finding new ways to circumvent the barriers that law enforcement has set in place. New scams crop up every day but there are a few effective schemes scammers keep in their arsenal. One of them is the Grandparent Scam.

What’s the Grandparent Scam?

The Grandparent Scam is a particularly infuriating scam that targets the elderly. A scammer calls claiming to be the call recipient’s grandchild. Oftentimes, the call is made in the middle of the night when the receiver has most likely been asleep and isn’t thinking clearly. There are variations of the scam but the general scenario is that this “grandchild” has gotten him or herself into trouble, usually in a foreign country. They’ve gotten hurt, robbed or arrested – either way, they need money fast to get out of this bad situation. The fraudster will ask the victim to wire money to Western Union without telling anyone else in the family – especially mom and dad because their parents will be upset and worried about them. Once the victim has wired the money, another person pretending to be the police officer, lawyer or bail bondsman may call to verify the fake story. This is supposed to prepare the victim for the next emergency call that is soon to follow from their imposter grandchild. Victims will go through anywhere between two to three money transfers before realizing they’ve been scammed.

More than money at stake

In addition to the financial loss, many victims of the grandparent scam endure significant emotional damage. They lose their self-confidence and are embarrassed to tell family members about what happened to them for fear of judgement. The FBI first began getting complaints about the Grandparent Scam in 2008 and since then, scam artists have been getting increasingly sophisticated. To make their phone calls more believable, they use social media platforms to uncover more personal information about their targets. A basic internet search will often reveal details about a family member’s favorite vacation spot, their work place or school.

How to protect yourself and your loved ones

The best way to fight fraud like the Grandparent Scam is to educate yourself on the current phone scams and how they can be avoided. If you do get a call that shows signs of the grandparent scam, resist the pressure from the caller. Never wire money based on a request made over the phone. Instead, try contacting family members to verify the story with them. Report the call to your local authorities or state consumer protection agency. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center

Hiya also has prevention solutions for scams like this. Our Data and Reputation Services team is dedicated to phone reputation and tracks phone numbers that are engaging in fraudulent activity. Their findings along with user comments feed into our mobile Hiya app. With Hiya, you can report fraudsters and get real-time alerts about scam and spam numbers, so you can skip their call and block them from ever contacting you again.

If you have a grandparent that you’re worried about, talk to them about the Grandparent Scam and how they can protect themselves. If they have a mobile phone, consider showing them the Hiya app. Nobody wants to see their loved ones hurt or let the scammers win.

Author Laura Mehrkens

Laura is a marketing professional from Germany who recently made Seattle her second home. She graduated from the University of Hamburg with a Bachelor's Degree in Japanese and American Literature.


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