Connecticut BBB warns families about “grandparent scam”
Across the United States and Canada, con artists are calling seniors, claiming to be a grandson or granddaughter who urgently needs money to get out of jail or for a host of other reasons.
Some callers identify themselves as police and tell the victims to wire money to secure their grandson’s release.
Typically, a grandparent receives a phone call from someone claiming to be one of his or her grandchildren, claiming that they are in some kind of trouble, usually an automobile accident, in the hospital, under arrest or in need of bail money immediately.
In one instance, a caller said the person’s grandson was in a car crash and needed to pay $4,500 in restitution. Once money is wired, the scammer and the money disappear.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Hotton Scarpetti, says the best thing for seniors to do when they receive these kinds of calls is to hang up and call their grandchild or his or her parents to see if the call is legitimate.
“These criminals are preying on the emotions of some of society’s most vulnerable people, the elderly. With a little work these thieves can find enough information on the Internet to make the calls seem legitimate,” says Scarpetti, “however the grandparent can also inadvertently provide enough information to actually help the con artist.”
In a typical example, the caller says “Hi, Grandma, do you know who this is?” The grandmother may ask “Is that you, John?” With that information, the caller makes his pitch of being in trouble and needing money:
Caller: “I have been arrested. Can you wire me $1,500 to me to make bail? Please don’t tell dad or he will be furious with me.”
The grandmother wires the money, but that may not be the end.
“Grandson” calls again asking for money to hire an attorney.
Grandma wires the money again but becomes suspicious and asks him to name his sister’s little girl, and he hangs up. The grandmother may then call her grandson and find out he has been at home the whole time and never called asking for money.
Though the scam is targeted mainly at grandparents, variations may involve posing as an old neighbor or a friend of the family.
“This is another warning not only about the way that people can be fooled into sending money to a con artist,” says Scarpetti, “ but also a reminder to be suspicious of any individual or company that asks that money be sent to them in the form of a cashier’s check or through a money wire transfer service. Once that money is sent there is no hope whatsoever of recovering it.”
Connecticut Better Business Bureau urges families to explain the scam to elderly relatives, encourage them to hang up if they receive such a call and warn them about the dangers of wiring money.
If a family member has become the victim of this scam, BBB encourages people to file a complaint with local police.
More information about protecting yourself and your family from being cheated out of money and identification theft protection, please visit the BBB web site.
Founded in 1912, BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB offers objective advice and a wide range of education on topics affecting marketplace trust. BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses. Today, 128 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than three million local and national businesses and charities. For more advice on finding companies and businesses, start your search with trust at www.bbb.org.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau
94 South Turnpike Rd
Wallingford, CT 06492
203-269-2700 ext 103
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