The scam begins with something most grandparents don't get enough of -- a phone call from a grandchild -- or so the caller says. But it almost always ends with a desperate plea for money.
They call senior citizens in the U.S., impersonating a grandchild in distress, begging for cash.
This is how a typical call would go, 'Hey, how are you, hi grandma, hi grandpa... I'm in a little bit of trouble right now. If I tell you, just keep it between us, I'm on vacation, but I got into trouble, and I was arrested and need you to send me money/gift cards wired or an account opened immediately.
It's estimated senior citizens are robbed of roughly $3 billion a year in financial scams. Phone scams are often run outside the con artists usually buy their victims' personal information online, which can include their age and income.
They target people over the age of 65, mainly, because they're more gullible and they are at home. They're more accessible. They get emotionally involved, then will do anything asked of them.
It’s not just seniors, there are doctors and lawyers that fall for this. It doesn't matter what your educational level is because it triggers something emotional, it causes you to act.
You are blinded by emotion and don't think rationally when this happens.
It's hard to tell how many people have been scammed like this, because there is no national database to track the grandparent scam and many grandparents are so embarrassed to report it. It's also very hard to catch these criminals, especially when they're operating outside the U.S. Also, their tactics can be highly sophisticated, such as disguising their phone numbers with a familiar number.
To file a complaint with The Federal Trade Commission, go to www.ftc.gov where you can fill out an online complaint form. You can also call the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 to report a complaint.