The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned Monday (Dec. 3) that a new scam is targeting people 70 and older, in which they are being tricked into sending large amounts of cash to people pretending to be their grandchildren.
In a press release, the FTC said the Consumer Sentinel Network has seen an increase in the median dollar amount people over the age of 70 are saying they lost to fraud, and when the FTC delved into the data, it found that many were being scammed by fake grandchildren. The FTC said $9,000 is the median cash amount that people aged 70 and older sent to a fake family member or friend, with 25 percent of the people reporting the fraud saying they sent cash.
“We call these family and friend imposter scams, but you may know them as the ‘grandparent scam,’ and with good reason. People 70 and over report that the scammer posed as a grandchild, usually a grandson, about 70 percent of the time,” the FTC said in the release.
According to the FTC, many of the scams start with a phone call in which the scammer uses common ploys, such as the caller claiming to be in jail or other legal trouble to get the victim to send cash. Callers will also claim to be a grandchild who was in a car accident, with some claiming it had to do with texting or drunk driving. In both cases, the callers play on the emotions and loyalty of victims. The scammer may claim that the victim is the only person they can trust to call for help, and may urge the them not to tell anyone else. Callers also give specific instructions on how to send cash, with many victims reporting that they were told to divide the bills into envelopes and place them in the pages of the magazine and to send them using UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service.
“These scammers are experts at impersonating people they’ve never even met. Car accident injuries, often broken noses, or uncontrolled sobbing explain away a voice that might not sound quite right,” noted the FTC. “Scammers use personal details from social media sites to make their stories more believable. Or they may simply wait for their target to use a name – ‘Steve, is that you?’ – and take the cue.”