A new scam is hitting grandparents right where they may be most vulnerable, their own grandchildren’s safety and well being. If a grandparent receives a call from a grandchild in trouble, they would normally immediately offer assistance. In this particular scam, a grandparent receives a telephone call from someone alleging to be their grandchild.
The imposter tells the grandparent that they are in trouble in a foreign country, had their wallet stolen, have been mugged, or in some way have been compromised. They request that the grandparent wire them an amount of money that is significant, but under the radar that might signal any authorities. The amount may range from $1,000 to just under $5,000, and of course, the funds must be wired from the grandparent’s bank to the imposter’s bank.
Once a wire has been completed, it cannot be reversed, and the account may be in a foreign country and likely very difficult to trace and allow U.S. authorities to have access to it, the account holder’s name, and other information that could help the grandparent recover the scammed funds.
It is possible that the grandparent has a hearing impairment or is not astute enough to pick up on a difference in the voice on the other end. But if they do, and the grandparent asks questions, the imposter often replies that they don’t have information or the time to answer questions. They state that they have no phone and are calling from a police station or from a friend’s phone so that it can’t be traced, or that their voice sounds different due to phone system or long distance.
In addition, such thieves tend to obtain enough information about the family to dupe the elder into believing that their grandchild really is in trouble. They may be aware of personal information, various family member names, pet names, etc., so that if questioned, their responses are appropriate. The imposter may also ask the grandparent to keep the information private and usually begs the grandparent not to tell the parent of the grandchild.
This is a cruel means of fraud, directly targeted against a elder’s emotions. Of course, an elder would want to help their own grandchild, especially in time of distress.
With May being elder law month, this may be a good time to remind your elderly family members of the need to not provide anyone with bank account numbers, social security numbers, or any other personal or identifying information that may allow their funds to be improperly transferred, despite the appearance of the legitimacy of the request. Before responding, the elder should call someone: a family member, an accountant, a lawyer, the Better Business Bureau, or another government agency to validate the legitimacy of the request, despite the claimed urgency of the situation.
Photo credit: Microsoft