Scammers preying on older Americans and grandparents

Most grandparents delight in hearing from their grandchildren. News about how they’re doing in school, updates on their interests, and the latest on other life developments are sources of pride for grandparents. They often are also eager to help when grandchildren have a need.

However, those open lines of communication and willingness to lend a helping hand are just what criminals seek when trolling for potential scam victims.

“Have you ever received a frantic call from someone posing as your grandchild? Scammers will call or email grandparents to make urgent requests for bail money, lawyer’s fees, hospital bills, or other fictitious expenses,” states the United States Postal Inspection Service website. “To make the story seem plausible, the scammer will add details about how, what or where the emergency happened, or tell you that a third person, such as a lawyer, doctor or police officer, will ‘explain everything to you’ if you call him or her.”

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), scams targeting older adults are on the rise. In 2022, there were 88,262 complaints of fraud resulting in $3.1 billion in losses from people 60 and older, states NCOA’s website. Impersonation scams, sweepstakes scams, robocall scams and grandparent scams are among the most common.

The FBI notes that senior citizen scam losses have increased 84 percent from 2021 to 2022.

In September 2023, the FBI, U.S. Attorney Office Northern District of Georgia and DeKalb Office of Senior Services held a senior safety session at Lou Walker Senior Center with information about senior scams and other safety concerns. DeKalb plans to hold another safety session this year, but dates and details have yet to be determined, according to a spokesman.

Scammers often gain access to consumers’ personal information by mining social media or purchasing data from cyber thieves and creating storylines to prey on the fears of grandparents, experts say.

With advancements in artificial technology, scammers now use it “to mimic voices, convincing people, often the elderly, that their loved ones are in distress,” according to a Washington Post article.

Among tips to seniors offered by the United States Postal Inspection Service:

• Verify the story before sending money. Verify the details of the story with the relative that the scam artist is claiming to be or other trusted family members or friends before deciding to send money.
• Be suspicious of urgent requests. Scammers preferred methods of payment are wire transfers or reloadable prepaid credit cards. Be suspicious of any urgent request to wire money or provide credit card numbers of the phone.
• Be wary of late-night calls. Scammers may call late at night to confuse potential victims.
• Think before acting. Don’t be quick to act, be quick to think.

For more information about scams targeting older Americans, go to the Better Business Bureau website at bbb.org or use AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Scam-Tracking Map at aarp.org.

 

 

Scammers try to prey on Champion editor

Twice in recent years, I received calls from distressed callers pretending to be my children and grandchildren. On the first call, the soft-spoken voice said “Mom, mom…” I couldn’t tell if it was a male or female, but the individual sounded like something was wrong. Momentarily my heart sank.
“Who is this,” I asked.
“Mom, I’ve been in an accident,” the caller said urgently.
“Who is this,” I asked again.
The caller not giving either of my children’s names immediately raised suspicions, and I was wise enough not to say their names.
I quickly realized it was a scam and hung up.
A few months ago, I received a call from someone pretending to be my grandchild. It was clear this was a scam since I don’t have any grandchildren. This time I decided to waste some of the caller’s time.
“Grandma, grandma, I need your help,” said the male caller.
“Is this Johnnie,” I replied.
“Yes grandma, this is Johnnie.”
The caller proceeded to tell me he was in an accident, was being blamed for driving while using his cellphone and needed grandma to take down some information to help him out. I advised “Johnnie” to call his parents and scolded him about using a phone while driving. He pleaded with me not to contact his parents and to help him.
After keeping him on the phone for a while with sympathetic grandma-like comments, I told him I didn’t have any grandchildren, knew this was a scam and hung up.
I’m sure this isn’t the last of these calls I’ll receive.

–Gale Horton Gay

 

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