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Scam Hitting Region's Grandparents

The so-called "grandparents scam" targets seniors by begging them to send money right away to help a grandchild in an emergency. Photo courtesy of the AARP.
The so-called "grandparents scam" targets seniors by begging them to send money right away to help a grandchild in an emergency. Photo courtesy of the AARP.
July 13, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. – Consumer advocates are warning that scammers who cynically target a grandparent's love are phoning older folks in the middle of the night.

Mary Bach, a consumer advocate with the AARP's Consumer Issues Task Force, says callers claim to be a police officer, a hospital official or even grandchildren themselves. They say you have to wire money or give your credit card number right away to pay for a hospital bill or a fee to get the grandchild out of jail.

Bach says the callers warn against telling the parents, and very cynically manipulate your emotions.

"And that's why the scam artists target grandparents, because they know that grandparents almost always have a very soft place in their heart for their grandchildren," she explains.

Bach says you should ask the caller for information only the grandchild would know. She says you can find out more at AARP’s Fraud Watch Helpline at 877-908-3360 or under the money section of the AARP's website, aarp.org.

Bach says never give money or information to people who call you out of the blue – only do it if you call them. And don't volunteer any private information scammers could use to con you. She says you should be asking them the questions.

"The names of other family members, or a family pet, or the mother's birthday,” she explains. “The kinds of questions that would be really hard for the scam artist to answer correctly."

Bach says one new wrinkle is that scammers may ask that the money be put on a reloadable card bought at a big-box store. But overall a 2010 survey found more than 7 million Americans 65 and older – 1 in 5 – have been victimized by some kind of swindle.

The insurance and financial firm MetLife estimates older Americans lose more than $2.9 billion a year this way.



Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA