GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The Better Business Bureau is issuing a warning about the latest scam that’s targeting senior citizens. They call it the grandparent scam, and we’ve seen it before, but since it strikes at the heart of emotions, it’s easy to fall victim.
The grandparent scam manipulates grandparents by posing as their grandchild, usually over the phone, and finds a reason why they would need money sent right away. Local 5’s Samantha Petters spoke to Lisa Schiller with the BBB, who explained that the scammers are targeting older generations because of their trusting nature and easy access to money.
“We’ve seen changes amongst the scam, but the scam remains the same, and generally what that means is it starts with the senior citizen getting a phone call from somebody saying ‘Hi Grandma’ or ‘Hi Grandpa’ and the grandparents will then respond with ‘Jacob is that you?’ or ‘Allison?’ and once they give away the name, the scammer will then use that to their advantage,” said the Director of Investigations and Media Relations. “The scammers usually say that they were in a car accident, there was an injury of some sort, they’re in the hospital, they need money to pay a medical bill, or they need money to pay a lawyer, and that prompts the senior citizen to send money which is always by some untraceable method like wire transfer or gift cards.”
Schiller also advises people to call family to fact-check the information in the phone call, just to be sure it’s real. “We always suggest grandparents hang up the phone and call the family member directly just to verify that the grandchild is, in fact, out of state, on vacation, and verify that the information is true,” said Schiller.
If you feel a sense of urgency or pressure to act on something for financial help, like buying a lot of gift cards, that’s a sign it could be a scam. Other warning signs that fraud may occur include the following:
- Frequent junk mail and spam calls.
- Unfamiliar payments are being made.
- Acting secretively about phone calls or messages.
- Sudden problems paying bills or buying food and other necessities.
Experts with the BBB say it’s important to protect yourself online or over the phone by not sharing any personal information, such as banking details or credit card numbers. The BBB provided some tips for helping your loved one avoid fraud:
- Become familiar with the common scams targeting older adults.
- Emphasize the criminal nature of telemarketing and email fraud.
- Encourage the person to ignore phone calls and messages that appear suspicious.
- Have a calm discussion about securing accounts and monitoring finances.
- Help the person change their phone number.
“Our message is there are a lot of scams out there, but we can stay one step ahead, and if we share the information and educate each other about them, that is going to help so much as far as saving people from becoming victims of scams,” said Schiller. “I can’t stress enough the importance of becoming familiar with the common scams that target older adults and encouraging them to report these scams.”
If you or someone you know has fallen victim to a scam call, you can report it on the Better Business Bureau website. You can also remain anonymous in the report.