BBB has warned grandparents for years about this scam. Recent reports on BBB Scam Tracker indicate that the Grandparent Scam has been increasing again.
Here is a report we sent out in January explaining how the racket works:
Caller to BBB (1-5-22): “I just wanted to let BBB know. I got a call from someone who said he was my grandson. He was on a holiday vacation in Mexico City with some of his college friends and got sick with COVID. He said he was calling me from the hospital. He said, ‘grandpa, I’m fine and getting better, but I need some money to pay a few of the bills until I get back to the U.S. I know you can help me, but please don’t tell mom and dad; they will be really worried and I don’t want to tell them ‘till I get back. Can you send me $ 2,500 by Venmo, Zelle or Western Union?’ I told him I would see if I had the money and call him back. Then I called the number for my grandson, who answered the phone from his job in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We had a good laugh about this scam but I wanted to report it to BBB.”
Our Shelba thanked the caller and encouraged him to also report it to BBB Scam Tracker, the website that tracks scams like this, which we call the “Grandma (Grandpa) Scam.”
We have talked to seniors in our area who have sent thousands of dollars to thieves like this claiming to be their grandchildren. Once the money is sent, it may be lost forever.
Criminals, often in foreign countries like Jamaica, Mexico or Caribbean nations, are very skilled at calling grandparents and tricking them into sending money. They use a trick that grandparents don’t realize; the scammers go on Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube or Instagram and locate the sites used by the grandchildren. Kids put all kinds of family details on their pages, and the scammers learn names of brothers, sisters, pets and recent family activities. So when they call grandma, they can be very convincing:
“Grandma, I know you can help me. Remember when we had that birthday party last year? My brother Billy and my sister Suzy were there and you made us that delicious cake? And then we all played badminton in the backyard? I remember how nice you were and I really hope you can send me that money.”
The grandparent has no idea that crooks can learn family information from the internet and they often fall for the scam.
BBB warns grandparents and seniors. If you receive a call which appears to be from a family member with a story about an urgent need for money, stop.
Get the details on who is apparently calling, their address and phone number. Then call the local family members and verify that the child is really traveling as they claim. Do not give out any personal information (like bank account numbers) or send any money until you have done your homework.
If you have older family members, discuss this racket with them. Emphasize to them; these callers are very convincing. Before you take any action on a phone call, verify the story with family.
Dick Eppstein is president of the Better Business Bureau, serving Northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan.