The Grandma Scam: How Con Artists Trick the Elderly
It began late one evening when Harriet, already in bed, answered a call from someone claiming to be a police officer. The caller said that Harriet’s grandson was in a car accident while traveling in Canada and needed some money to tow and fix the car. “Could you please wire some money to us so we can get him on his way home?
“Oh, and please, Grandma,” the alleged officer said, “don’t tell his parents, since they didn’t know he was taking this trip.” By the way, Grandma, what a big checking account you have.
Yes, it’s a scam.
Sometimes the caller claims to be a lawyer or a close friend and — even more boldly — the grandchild herself, often with a less serious problem such as a missing wallet, lost airline ticket needed to get back from spring break, or a stolen credit card while traveling in Europe. The “grandparent scam” can also happen by email after access to email accounts has been compromised.
Regardless of the story, one red flag is that it always ends up with a request to have money wired immediately. Using cold-reading techniques, the scammers get you to provide the information they need. For example, when you answer the phone and the caller says “Hi, Grandma” it’s easy to respond with, “Is that you Billy?” Of course, the caller says “Yes, and I need your help,” and then proceeds to weave the trap.