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Give The Older Folks In Your Life A Heads Up About The Grandma Scam

Family get togethers are planned to be festive, but with what we’re seeing out there affecting grandparents across the country, we hope you’ll also see a get together as a chance to warn the
aging folks in your family. There is a need and a chance to give them a heads up on a pervasive
problem they may not know about: the grandma scam. Although the government, local agencies
and sometimes the media publicize these predatory traps for elders, somehow the word doesn’t get
around fast or far enough. Here at , we work with a lot of families who
have elders and we’ve been sounding the alarm since 2007 on this one. But it persists.
Intelligent people, doctors, lawyers, professionals and non professionals alike are being victimized.
Anyone can be caught off guard.

Here’s how the grandma scam works.
A call from a young person is made to the targeted older person, often at night, after aging person is asleep. Half awake, grandma answers the phone. ”It’s me, Grandma” the caller says. Grandma immediately falls into the trap and says “Michael, is that you?” Or any grandchild who is named instantly becomes the identity of the caller. ”Yes, it’s Michael” the scammer says quickly. He then says he’s in trouble in some named city far away or even a foreign country. He’s lost his passport, or been arrested, he’s in the hospital, he’s very sick, or some concocted tale of needing help desperately. There is pain in his voice. He says how much he loves his Grandma and please don’t tell his parents. He needs money right away for the bill or for a lawyer to get him out of jail or to get a new passport, etc. Would Grandma please wire the money? The instructions are crazy if you think about them. The targeted victim has to act right away. But repeatedly, older gullible people are swayed by the feeling of wanting to help a grandchild in need.

Your aging loved one can be easily tricked under the right circumstances. Wanting a call from grandkids is the starting point for scammers. It triggers an emotional response to the plea for help. Scammers sometimes make calls during the day and use the “I love you, you’re the best Grandma ever” ploy before the pitch for money. “I love you” is something the grandparent wants to hear and the emotional hook is the basis of the con man’s success. Warn the grandparents to ask the caller a question only a real grandchild would know: the name of a pet, a parent’s birth date or a nickname.
When you see older loved ones this holiday season, take some time, not at the family meal, but before or after it, to bring this up and enlighten them. A friendly warning just might make Grandma think before sending money to anyone without checking out the sob story. If it’s too late, you can file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission at  and to the AARP Fraud
Watch Network,  or call 1-800-646-2283.
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney, Healthy aging and protecting our elders,,

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Last modified:  01/13/2016
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