Don’t let Grandma get burned by the ‘grandparent scam’

ID-10090006When I was a kid I could always count on my grandparents when I needed help. If it weren’t for them, I never would have made it through college and I’d probably still be stuck on the side of the road somewhere.

The thought of other sweet grannies and grandpas like mine being ripped off by criminals makes my blood boil. 

BBB would like to remind you that Sunday, Sept. 8 is Grandparents Day. It’s a good time to warn seniors and the people who love them about the “grandparent scam.”

How the scam works: 

The grandparent gets a frantic call from someone who poses as a grandchild.  The scammer says he or she is in trouble–often stuck in another country or involved in an accident or emergency. The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents to not tell his or her parents and asks them to wire money to help immediately. A grandparent scammer knows grandparents love their grandkids and are usually willing to help them out of a jam.

Grandparents may know their grandkids’ voices in normal circumstances, but the scammers have done research for family details and might cry or otherwise make it hard to tell. If seniors wire money to the scammers, the transaction is untraceable and the money is gone for good. It’s like sending cash.

Unfortunately, con artists love grandparents as much as we do–but for different reasons. They know seniors are often trusting and willing to help loved ones. They know seniors can have Social Security income, pensions, investments and plenty in savings. Those qualities make them attractive targets.

The Consumer Sentinel Network shows a steady increase in impostor scam reports over the last several years, from just above 60,000 in 2010 to close to 83,000 in 2012. The grandparent scam is a common impostor scam targeted at senior citizens. If you are a senior or you know someone who is, it’s important to learn how these scammers operate.

BBB offers these tips to avoid becoming victim to a grandparent scam:

  • Be skeptical. Ask questions only the grandchild could know the answer to, without revealing too much personal information yourself. Ask the name of a pet, a favorite dish or what school they attend. Your loved one should not get angry about you being too cautious.
  • Verify information. Check with the parents to see if their child is really travelling as they say they are.
  • Don’t wire money. Never use a transfer service to send money to someone you haven’t met in person, or for an emergency you haven’t verified is real.
  • Stay private. Check your privacy settings on all your social media sites. Scammers often make their stories more believable by trolling for information on Facebook, Twitter and similar sites.
  • Know where to turn. If you fall victim to a scam, report the incident immediately to local police and your state Attorney General’s office.


  1. John Patterso says:

    These scammers are getting out of control, good info in this, also there are websites that you can enter the phone number to see if others have reported them as scammer like

    1. Thanks for the tip. Sometimes just doing an Internet search for the phone number will turn up a bunch of mentions and give you an idea what the scam is.

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