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Protect Yourself From the Grandparents Scam

Your phone rings late at night. When you pick up, it’s someone claiming to be your grandson or granddaughter. The caller sounds flustered and begins to tell you they were in an accident. The caller provides just enough details of where they are—or how the accident happened— that you begin to believe your loved one really is in distress and in need of your help. 
Beware of making an immediate decision. There is a chance the caller is not your grandchild, and you are on the verge of becoming a victim of the grandparents scam.
There are many scenarios the scammer can use, with the most popular being a medical accident, being stranded in another country, a car accident, being mugged, or needing money for bail.
Following the description of the accident, they may even pose as an authority figure to try and make the story more credible. No matter the details or plot behind the story, the scammer will always need you to send money immediately. The following tips can help protect you from falling victim to the grandparents scam:
  1. Do not wire or transfer any money. 
  2. Does this sound like my grandchild? 
  3. Why would they call me and not call their parents? 
  4. Analyze the details of the story and ask questions. Who are they with? How did this happen? Have they called their parents? 
  5. Ask a personal question such as their pet’s name, the last family vacation they went on, or a family member’s birthday. 
  6. If you already wired money, call the wire company immediately to report the scam.  

Why Are Seniors Being Targeted?

Fraudsters target the elderly because they are often the most vulnerable. They are often alone, compassionate, and more willing to listen than others, making them easier and more profitable targets. Senior citizens also likely have good credit, own their own homes, and have sizable savings accounts.
Often, seniors do not report fraud out of fear they will be deemed mentally unfit to take care of their own financial affairs. According to the National Council on Aging, the top scams against the elderly include the grandparents scam, Medicare fraud, telephone and internet scams, investment fraud, and sweepstakes/lotteries.  

How to Protect Yourself from Elder Abuse

The NCOA reminds senior citizens to stay alert. Know that you are not only at risk from strangers, but from family members and friends closest to you as well. Over 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by family members, including the victim’s children and grandchildren. 
One of the most common forms of elder abuse is financial exploitation. Avoid opening joint checking accounts with family members, signing over rights to property or vehicles, and withdrawing large sums of money from your accounts at the request of a family member or friend.  
While elder abuse often is targeted in the form of financial mistreatment, there are many other forms to be aware of. Protect yourself by staying educated, taking care of your health, not giving personal information over the phone, using direct deposit for all checks, frequently monitoring your accounts, and regularly reviewing your will.
The Consumer Federation of America advises increasing your privacy settings on all social media and email accounts with anti-spyware and antivirus. Be cautious when opening attachments from anyone you do not know, as this can allow criminals remote access to your computer. As an extra layer of protection, always avoid posting personal information on social media accounts.  
SCCU is watching out for your financial interests by providing you with resourceful information to remain vigilant against fraud.  
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