Scammers are, yet again, targeting the elderly. It’s called the Grandparent Scam, it’s been around for a few years, but it’s rearing its ugly head again. And three Idaho senior citizens have fallen prey.
We called the Idaho Attorney general, Lawrence Wasden’s office to find out how it works. Here’s what they told us: (Yes, we did call, no lie.)
The crooks get a list of names. They either buy what’s called a “sucker” or “mooch” list from other bad guys, which is a list of people who’ve fallen for frauds in the past – or they get a marketing list from a company. In one case in Maine, the scammers actually got the name of their victim by looking up anniversary notices in the local paper.
Then they start calling. When they get an elderly sounding person they start they conversation with “Hi, grandma” The senior citizen on the other end of the line says “Oh, John, is that you?” - the crook says “Yes, it’s me” - and the scam begins.
They tell the grandparent that they’ve either been arrested or in an accident in a foreign country. And they need grandpa to send thousands of dollars to get them out of jail or to fix their car.
They want the money sent western union, of course, so it’s completely untraceable. One elderly man was just about to send $2,800 to a person he thought was his grandson, but the Western Union agent stopped him and told him to call his grandson first. Turned out the kid was fine.
So protect yourself by always confirming the story before you send money. Call the grandchild or a family member with a number from your own address book first. And always be wary if someone asks you to wire money – because once the transfer goes through, there’s no getting it back.