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Grandparent Scams’ Steal Thousands from Seniors

“Across the country, law enforcement officials are warning seniors to beware of so-called “grandparent scams,” in which fraudsters are impersonating a grandchild in distress – and begging for cash.” cnn.com

According to the CNN report, in 2009 the Federal Trade Commission recorded 743 incidences of scammers impersonating a friend or family member in need of money. Since 2010, the FTC has recorded more than 40,000 and it is estimated that there are many more that go unreported.

The report goes on to recall a story from Ann and John Mykietyn, residents of New Jersey, who last fall received a call from their grandson (or so they thought) and spent the next two days in a panic.

The imposter grandson told them that he had been in a car accident while at a bachelor party in Mexico and needed $1800 to get out of jail. To add to the panic, he called back the next day, frantically explaining how his wallet had been stolen and he needed $2400 to get a new passport.

Anxious to help their grandson make it home, they sent 2 MoneyGram cash transfers to Mexico. They were even duped into sending a third transfer after a man called claiming that one of the transfers was rejected.

After some time had passed and they didn’t hear back from their “grandson” they realized that they were victims of a scam. The elderly couple lost nearly $7000 to these scumbags.

“You get angry at yourself for being so foolish, but you’re in a panic mode,” Ann Mykietyn said. “You don’t want any harm to your grandchild.”

Although the Mykietyns filed a report with the police, their money was already gone, with no chance of recovering it. “It’s everywhere. It’s an epidemic,” said Jean Mathisen, manager of the AARP’s Fraud Fighter call center, which has fielded hundreds of calls about grandparent scams so far this year.

Law enforcement officials have cracked down on grandparent scammers working out of Canada but new scammers continue to pop up. (Steven Baker, director FTC) It’s unknown as to just how much money these scumbags have ripped off but according to the CNN report, a Michigan couple was relieved of over $30,000 when someone pretending to be their grandson called asking for cash to help him pay a fine and post bond to get out of a Canadian jail.

The way these scammers work is to make a phone call and simply say “Grandma (or grandpa), are you there?” Then they say they have gotten in trouble, a car accident or locked in jail in a foreign country. All of these being emergencies that require immediate cash to resolve.

In an attempt to have their story verified, the caller will then beg that the grandparents keep things secret, not telling the grandchild’s parents.

This is a joke you say. “I would recognize my grandchild’s voice” well, they have thought of that. Usually the story involves the grandchild having an injury to their nose or mouth. …all conceivable given the circumstances.

Once money is sent, the scammers milk it for all it’s worth. Usually other phone calls follow with people posing as attorneys, bail bondsmen or doctors.

As time goes on, these grandparent scammers are getting more sophisticated. In some cases they are using online obituaries and social networking sites to profile their victims.

In the Mykietyn’s case, the caller somehow knew to call John Mykietyn “Gramps,” when he answered the phone. It was the detail that hooked him, he says. “The other grandchildren call me Grandpa,” he said.

What can you do to help protect you or your grandparents from this type of scam?

  • Be very suspicious of anyone who calls out of the blue asking for cash.
  • Immediately call the parents of the so-called grandchild and verify the emergency before sending any money.
  • Come up with a family “secret code” that can be used to verify a true emergency.
  • Keep a minimal amount of personal information on social media. Be careful about posting dates and times that you or a family member will be going on vacation or traveling.

For more tips or to report a scam, visit the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Stopper site or contact the FTC.

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