Imagine this… You are an elderly grandparent who lives alone.
You get a call in the middle of the night from your college-aged granddaughter. She’s frantic and crying, telling you she was mistakenly arrested while vacationing in Cancun.
She says she needs you to pay her $1,800 bond, or she’ll be transferred to a dangerous Mexican prison. The Mexican police told her she only has a few hours before she’s transferred, so she needs you to wire the money immediately.
She’s terrified her parents finding out she was arrested and begs you not to tell them. Because she only has a couple of minutes to use the police station phone, the call ends abruptly before you can get any further details.
What do you do?
If you’re like the thousands of others who’ve gotten just such a call, you’d probably wire the money in a heartbeat. It is your grandchild’s life after all. But you’d soon find out that your granddaughter hasn’t been arrested and was never in Mexico.
The Grandparent Scam
Known as the Grandparent Scam, this con has been around for years, and while it may seem far fetched, it has tricked many caring seniors. And this scam is on the rise.
How the scam works:
- You get a call from someone pretending to be your grandchild. The “grandchild” explains he or she is in trouble and needs money immediately. They might be in jail and need bond or be stranded in a foreign country and need money to get out.
- The caller asks you to wire money to a specific location or give it to a third party, usually someone posing as a lawyer or police officer.
- The “grandchild” will often plead with you not to tell their parents they’re in trouble.
- Once you send the money, the caller breaks off all contact, making it impossible to recover your funds.
What to do:
In most cases, the best course of action is to simply hang up and contact the authorities. However, if the caller really does sound like the family member they claim to be, here are some steps you can take to help verify the situation is legitimate:
- Don’t panic. It’s far easier to be deceived if you’re nervous or scared.
- Be wary of calls from unknown or blocked numbers. Ask to call them back on the person’s own phone, and never accept requests sent solely by email or text.
- Verify the caller’s identity by asking them questions only the actual person would know the answer to, such as the name of their first pet.
- Beware of urgent demands that money be sent immediately. Reputable sources don’t try to pressure you into making split-second financial decisions.
- Call other family and friends to verify where the person is. A reputable source will respect your caution and give you the opportunity to verify the facts.
- Requests for money to be wired are often scams, as it’s nearly impossible to get your money back in cases of fraud. Request a more secure transaction method, such as through a bank or PayPal. Legitimate sources are likely to offer multiple payment options.
Please share this article with any seniors in your life. There are countless other scams out there that work in much the same way, so even if it’s not this particular con, by becoming aware how these deceptions work, they’ll be much less likely to fall for them.
Of course, scams and cons are just one threat to seniors’ financial security. Without comprehensive estate planning, there are numerous other ways your family’s money and other assets can be squandered or lost.
Consult with us to put planning strategies in place to safeguard your family’s finances and other assets, both tangible and intangible. This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she helps you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s Myrna offers a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session for free.