Scammers target seasoned citizens by pretending to be grandchildren

A news report this week noted 16 people from the Dominican Republic had scammed $35 million from 5,000 elderly Americans, according to Fox News.

“A grandparent scam usually goes something like this: the phone rings, a caller claims to be a relative, usually a grandchild, in distress – a victim in a car accident or [who] got arrested – and they need money immediately,” said Philip Sellinger, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

“The concerned grandparent jumps into action. They would do anything for their grandchild, no matter the cost,” he added. “But it’s all a scam, and once the grandparents hand over the cash, it’s almost always gone for good.”

Personally, I think there is a special place in hell for these kind of scammers who prey upon people with poor hearing and declining cognitive abilities. Even worse, after scammers get a victim on the line, it opens the door to escalating demands for more money.

According to Fox News, once a scammer pretending to be a relative convinces a victim to provide help, then a second person joins the scam. Known as a “closer,” the second and often more experienced crook will call or come on the line.

The closer will impersonate defense attorneys, police officers or court personnel, demanding money for nonexistent fees that are typically picked up from victims’ homes via local couriers.

The press release about the arrest can be found on the Department of Homeland Security’s website. A video of the press conference is available on YouTube or can be watched below.

To prevent themselves from falling victim to these scams, seasoned citizens are encouraged not to get caught up in the “urgency” of the matter.

The first step to counter scammers should be to call the relative directly or, in the case of a grandchild, his or her parents to confirm a problem really exists. Many scams have been abruptly stopped when the “victim” happily answers the phone.

If you have an inkling of concern that something is fishy, DO NOT give out personal information, such as a credit card number or bank account routing numbers. There is nothing so urgent that it can’t wait 30 minutes before a next step is taken.

Scammers almost always demand cash, a credit card number or bank account information immediately. Some will settle for gift cards, which seems really strange.

Tell the scammers you need to use the restroom and to call back in a few minutes. Then seek advice from a trusted friend, relative, neighbor or even call your bank and local police department to get advice.

Chances are very strong the scammers will be speaking in a foreign accent, which should be a red flag. In those instances, simply hang up. If they call back again, explain the call is being recorded and that police are on the way to provide you with assistance.

If there is someone looking for a purpose after turning 50, helping seasoned citizens avoid these scams would be a good use of time.