History & Headlines

Grandparent Telephone Scam Targets Seniors

seniors, telephone scams, older adults, victims, con artists

There are many telephone scams going on at any given time, and among the several that target seniors and older adults in both the U.S. and Canada, is the "grandparent telephone scam". (Photo: Elim Springs)

In September 2014, actress Pat Crowley told reporter David Lazarus for the Los Angeles Times that she'd fallen victim to the "Grandparent Telephone Scam", which targets senior citizens with false tales of woe about a family member needing financial help. 

In this instance, the con artist caller said he was Pat Crowley's grandson Will, that he'd been arrested and drugs were involved, and not to tell anyone. He told her a police officer would contact her in a few minutes. Sure enough, "Officer Lewis" called and told Crowley to take out $2,000 from her bank and buy 4 prepaid debit cash cards (Green Dot, available from CVS); and wait on another call. When Officer Lewis called Crowley back, she requested the PIN numbers from the backs of the cards. They were bold enough to have another person call again soon after to advise that Officer Lewis must have copied down one of the PINs incorrectly. Crowley was told to wait at home for her grandson to contact her about where to pick him up after his bail was processed.

Five hours later Pat Crowley called her grandson's cellphone and reached him at a resort, oblivious to the scam that had been pulled on his grandmother.

Phone Scam Tips from the FTC:

• Never act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story may be.

• Verify the caller's identity by asking questions a stranger couldn't answer.

• Check things out with another family member even if you've been sworn to secrecy.

• Never wire money or load cash onto a debit card. That's not how legitimate law-enforcement agencies work.

Anita Hamilton

Baby boomer Anita Hamilton has always been interested in the "real people" stories behind the characters that create and inhabit the world of music, books, movies, television shows, current events, history, etc. A lifelong love of research (ok, nosiness) and writing, combined with a loving and supportive family and 3 mini-dachshund minions, keeps her busy.

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