The “Grandparent Scam”, Targeting Southern California’s Elderly, Is Back
The “Grandparent Scam” is nothing new. Reports of fake “relatives in distress” have been circulating for years now, but the California Attorney General warns that there have been a rash of scams perpetuated recently. It’s been estimated that seniors lose roughly $3 billion to financial scams each year, with the Grandparent Scam hailed as the most popular. In 2015, the FTC received 10,565 reported “family impostor” fraud complaints. Who knows how many incidents went unreported!
What is the Grandparent Scam?
Here’s how the scam works:
- Someone calls you, starting with a “Hi, Grandpa” or “Hi, Grandma.”
- The caller claims to be a grandchild in trouble and in need of cash right away.
- Often, the “grandchild” says he or she had a sudden medical emergency or a car that broke down.
- Other schemes may include that the grandchild was mugged or arrested.
- Asking you to wire cash to an authority figure is common. “I’m at the police station with a lawyer,” one may say.
- The caller may hand the phone to a “police officer,” “lawyer,” or “repair technician” to corroborate their story.
- The address of the wire transfer is often to a foreign location, such as Mexico or Canada.
- Instead of wire transfers, the caller may request gift cards from Target or prepaid Visa cards.
- The caller insists that you not tell anyone about the money transfer or says that it’s a confidential secret.
Financial scams are a form of elder abuse
California has passed new laws to reinforce the fact that stealing from the elderly is a serious crime. Victims not only suffer financially, but emotionally as well. SB 543, sponsored by the San Diego DA’s office, makes stealing from the elderly a “qualifying prior offense,” which can bump up three instances of petty theft to a felony.
What to do when a Grandparent scammer calls you
If you’ve been targeted, the AARP recommends that you:
- Ask the caller a lot of questions. Take a deep breath and try not to let your emotions run away with you. Ask the caller for a maternal birth date, the name of his or her pet, or a boss’s name.
- Never give out personal information. Scammers may have access to personal information such as email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, employers, and relative names that have been bought or stolen online. Sophisticated scammers can even mask their numbers so they appear to be calling from a familiar line. Avoid giving out any identifying information or financial data such as credit or bank account numbers, and online passwords.
- Always call other relatives to verify the story. Try to contact your grandchild directly by cell or work phone, or by speaking with someone your grandchild is close to who can corroborate the details.
- Contact the authorities. Always report financial treachery to the Federal Trade Commission. You may also report the incident to the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Call Center at 1-800-646-2283. If you fear a relative is in trouble overseas, you can call the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) at 1-888-407-4747.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen for the act. These trained con-artists are so good they could win an Academy Award for their performances. Doug Shadel from the AARP explained: “We’ve had doctors and lawyers fall for this. It doesn’t matter what your educational level is because it triggers something emotional, it causes you to act.” Cut yourself some slack, but do contact an experienced attorney who can help you get your money back.
Contact a Southern California elder abuse attorney
If you or someone you love has been targeted by a telemarketing scam, know that California law allows victims of elder abuse to sue for damages, including the cost of attorney fees and legal expenses. Some victims suffer depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders that they need treatment for after a devastating financial loss. In some cases, you may be eligible for compensation to cover the cost of your treatment. The Ellis Injury Law Firm offers free, no-obligation consultations and works on a contingency basis only, meaning that you owe us nothing for our work until we win your case in settlement or in court. Speak with a friendly and knowledgeable elder abuse attorney in Los Angeles today!
Additional “Grandpa Scam” Resources:
- State of CA Dept of Justice – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Urges Californians to Be on the Lookout For the ‘Grandparent Scam’ and Other Recently Reported Scams https://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-urges-californians-be-lookout-%E2%80%98grandparent-scam
- Roseville CA – Grandparent Scam https://nextdoor.com/agency-post/ca/roseville/city-of-roseville-california/beware-of-the-grandparent-scam-10982455/
- CBS – Grandparent Scam Explained: What You Need To Know http://www.cbsnews.com/news/grandparent-scam-explained-by-former-scammer-what-you-need-to-know/
- 12 News – Hi Grandma Scam http://www.12news.com/money/business/consumer/call-12-for-action/hi-grandma-phone-scam-impersonates-family-for-money/61942781