How Grandparent Scams Work & What to Do

You receive a phone call from someone claiming to be your grandchild.  He or she was traveling on vacation in Mexico and has either been arrested or has been in a car accident, or both. The police found drugs in the car, or someone has been seriously hurt.  Money is needed for bail, medical bills, attorney fees or car repairs. The grandchild begs you not to tell their parents. They are in a hurry, desperate, and knew they could count on you to send money.  Incidentally, you’ll be asked to send money to some 3rd party, or pay via pre-paid gift cards.  If this were real, you’d be sending money to a bail bondsman company, or to a court.

Why this scam works:

What grandparent wouldn’t want to help their grandchild?  The fact he or she called you instead of their parents creates that bond you most likely always wanted but never achieved.  Never mind that the voice didn’t really sound like your grandchild. You mostly spoke to “the police” or “their attorney.” You’ll do anything to help. The scammers prey on your unfamiliarity with your grandchild, your eagerness to help, and the fact you’re in too big of a hurry to think about it.

What you need to do:

Slow down. Don’t get caught up in the emotions.  Contact the parents anyway just to ask if they’ve heard from their son/daughter recently.  Or, if you just can’t break that newly created bond of trust, call your grandchild at a number you already have on file for him/her, not at the number the scammer provided. You’ll find that your grandchild is fine. Even if you can’t immediately get in contact with your grandchild, it’s probably because they are at work or school.   

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