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Scammers Targeting Illinois Grandparents

Telephone scammers are targeting Chicago-area grandparents, warns the Better Business Bureau. Credit: DTL/
Telephone scammers are targeting Chicago-area grandparents, warns the Better Business Bureau. Credit: DTL/
November 9, 2015

CHICAGO - Reports of a scam targeting senior citizens in the Chicago area have been on the rise recently. According to the Better Business Bureau, the con involves someone who calls an elderly person pretending to be a grandson or daughter and claiming they're in legal trouble and need bail money.

Steve Bernas, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Northern Illinois, says the thieves are preying on vulnerable people.

"Last week was an individual who lost $1,800, basically was most of his life savings left, to get his grandson out of jail," says Bernas. "And his grandson was home sleeping."

Bernas says nationally the number of reports of the grandparent scam, and others like it, have risen from 12,000 to about 15,000 over the past three years.

Bernas notes the scammers are likely using social media sites, like Facebook, to find their victims. He says the grandson of one recent victim posted pictures of himself in Mexico and that's all it took.

"The scam artists saw that, was able to determine who the grandparents were, found them through the directory assistance," he says. "And called the grandparents saying 'This is Johnny, I'm in Mexico, I got hurt, I need bail money.'"

Bernas claims the scam tends to work because seniors are more likely to answer their phones than younger people who tend to rely on voicemails and text messages. Plus, by being pushy, the scam artist tries to create a sense of urgency to confuse their victims. Bernas says don't fall for it.

"What we always call the tip off to the ripoff is anybody calling you up saying you've got to pay money within 30 minutes, that it's a scam, it's a ripoff," he says.

The Better Business Bureau advises that if you get a call like that, the best thing to do is to hang up and report it to the police.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL