Targeting senior citizens, one of the oldest and most frequently committed scams is still going strong. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) advises all seniors to use caution when answering phone calls from unknown numbers, especially when the caller claims to be a relative asking for money.
This particular scam method is a rather simple one: playing on grandparent’s heartstrings, the con artists call elderly people, posing as their grandchild and claiming to be in trouble that could be solved with a money donation by their supposed grandparent. Unfortunately, some of our users have already made some experiences with these scam methods. As user Harry commented on the number 4389894013:
Unbelievable scam! My dear mother received a call last week from a young man who claimed to be her grandson. He said he got into “all kinds of trouble”, was arrested on vacation and now needs some money for a lawyer and bail. You can imagine how upset she was when she called us to check in. Fortunately, she hadn’t done anything yet and was just happy to hear that her grandson is well – but the nerve that some people have!
Other recently reported numbers include:
5145685650 from Pierreville, Canada
4387653430 from Quebec in Canada
8888912113 from an unknown location
Reasons for Targeting Seniors
There are several reasons why seniors in particular are targeted by scammers. Generally speaking, most seniors tend to have excellent credit and often saved up extra money for emergencies. Additionally, they grew up in different times with a different mind set, tending to be well-mannered, trusting, giving and caring, and are thus more vulnerable to scams. Oftentimes, seniors fail to report these crimes for reasons of false pride – embarrassed by the thought of what relatives or others might think if they’d admit to being scammed. A lot of con artists also bank on a less detailed memory and forgetfulness that tends to increase with age. In some cases it might take a while before the victim realizes he or she has been duped which makes it even harder to track down the scammers and retrieve the money.
With the number of elderly people continuously rising, senior citizens make up a large portion of the US population – more and more of which make use of advancing technology, becoming more accessible to con artists (regardless of their actual physical distance). Many scammers operate outside the US which raises even more difficulties to catch and stop them.
Common Methods and Red Flags
Over time, some scams have become even more elaborate with some, for instance, researching social media sites to obtain personal details about the grandchildren that they can use to gain people’s trust. Sometimes even a third person is involved, posing as a police officer or lawyer and supposedly validating the grandchild’s claim to need money. However, there are some patterns of behavior that should raise immediate suspicion. These red flags are:
- the caller doesn’t identify by name or only after you already suggested it
- the caller insists that his/her parents should not get involved
- the caller urges you to wire money through Western Union or Moneygram (most commonly used by scammers in the US) or to immediately and secretly send money
- the call originates from outside the US or overseas
- the caller won’t and/or can’t answer questions your actual relative would know
- the caller doesn’t sound like the person he/she is claiming to be but makes excuses for it (e.g. bad cold)
How to Recognize Scam Calls
In order to quickly identify scam calls, you should refrain from suggesting a person’s first name: for example, if someone says “It’s your grandson” ask for their actual name and if necessary for further information that only you the person in question would know. The following tips might also be helpful to avoid scams and money trips:
- check in with your relatives (e.g. the grandchild concerned or his/her parents) to confirm the story with a phone number you know to be trustworthy
- refuse to send money via wire transfer if you are uncertain who’s on the receiving end
- make notes as to who requested money, when and to which location
- if you do wire money, add a security question only the person you think will receive the money would know
- if you have already wired money without security question and it hasn’t been picked up, call the wire transfer service to cancel
Moreover, the FBI strongly advises to resist the pressure and refrain from hasty action. If you have been scammed it is important to report the crime immediately to law enforcement officials and to file a fraud report. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will regain your money but it will certainly make it easier for law enforcement agencies and the FBI to track down active con artists and prosecute them.
You may also talk to your parents or grandparents about the dangers of unknown and/or possible scam callers. Furthermore, if scam numbers have been brought to your attention, don’t hesitate to share the information on tellows so that other people can benefit from your knowledge.