The Grandparent Scam – Better Business Bureau Warns The Public

CHICAGO – Many scams and schemes run by con artists are cyclical in that they come and go. Sometimes it’s every few months, or following a natural disaster, or at a particular time of the year. One of those that fall into a cycle is the “Grandparent Scam” and the Better Business Bureau is warning the public that reported “granny scam” calls are on the rise.

Here’s how the scam works. Generally, the grandparent receives a distressed phone call from someone who claims to be their grandchild. Charles Nolan of Chicago received such a call. “The first call I got was supposed to have been from my grandson. I didn’t recognize his voice. He said that he was in jail in Ohio and needed bail. He said someone would call me with more info.”

When the second call came it was from someone pretending to be his grandson’s lawyer. Mr. Nolan stated: “He said that my grandson had been in a car accident and gave me a case number. He said that a girl was in the car and had been injured and my grandson needed $1,870 for bail.”

After building a sense of urgency, the scammers generally instruct the victim to wire money to post bail. Mr. Nolan said, “I was told to go to CVS and send it through MoneyGram and I did it right away.” After sending the money Mr. Nolan contacted his son and found out his grandson wasn’t in Ohio at all. Also, Mr. Nolan informed the BBB that he received, yet another, call from the “lawyer” asking for more money.

“Since about 2008, we’ve seen many seniors and their families who have been hurt by this scam.” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “National data tracked by the BBB shows that the grandparent scam or variations of it have increased from 12,000 to 15,000 in the years 2012 to 2015.”

While senior citizens are being targeted, many law enforcement officials believe the scammers are most likely calling random numbers. “The key here is that senior citizens are more than likely to be home during the day to take the phone call. However, some scammer get their information from social media sites like Facebook.” noted Bernas.

What to do if you receive a “Granny Scam” call:

  • Remain calm – Despite the emergency nature of the call, try to verify the identity of the caller. Don’t get caught up in the urgency which can lead to making emotional rather than logical decisions.
  • Make direct contact – Confirm the status of the individual by calling them directly or verifying the story with other family members before taking action.
  • Wire transfers – Any request to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram should be seen as a “red flag” and an immediate tip-off that the call may be part of a scam.
  • Report the call – If you have been victimized by this type of distressed loved-one call, immediately contact your local police department and the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

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ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.

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