First, a quick link to a great resource at least here locally on the topic: Safe Seniors – and then an exceedingly rare up front plea: – PLEASE SHARE THIS! The more people who are aware, the better chance we have to prevent these scammers from succeeding.
A quick excerpt from that link that will tie in the real life story I am going to share:
Imposters, often from foreign countries, target the elderly by posing as a grandchild in trouble and in need of cash. The caller often says that he or she has been arrested, was in a car accident or has some type of medical emergency. The caller always insists that the grandparent not tell anyone about the money transfer, which is one of the red flags. The scam is often effective because it catches seniors off guard and tugs at their heartstrings.
I decided to share the tale here since a quick post to the August moms email group and then on Facebook apparently helped some other friends of mine warn off their own family & elderly neighbors so that they didn’t fall for this ploy – which is VERY effective!
A bit before the holidays, my mom received a phone call which started like this “Hi grandma, it’s me – your grandson!” When she said “Oh hi!” the follow up was “Do you know who this is?” and she responded with my older son’s name and the Game was On.
With a blend of throwing darts at the dartboard guesses and exceptionally leading questions or statements, the caller convinced my mom he was my son, that he was in trouble for crashing a car and that he needed money wired. She was to tell NO ONE and especially not ME. Part of the leading conversation gained the information that son #1 has had some DUI issues and would be a boatload of trouble if that ever came up again so the caller deftly played on those heartstrings.
Now, the scammer instructed my mom that there would be a follow up phone call from the attorney who would give her wiring instructions and then they hung up. In between, she did try to call my son – who just happened to not have his phone ON at that moment – and then she tried to call me and vaguely asking me if he was home and OK. Since I had not yet seen him that morning, but I did see his car in the driveway (I was out prepping the yard for holiday lights) I said he was home and had been home all night as far as I knew, but I know I was also impatient since I didn’t know why she wasn’t just calling him directly and well, my hands were full of dirt & weeds!
All of which converged to help her still believe the scammer so that when they called back – by then my dad was home – they were really quite convinced they needed to wire this money. So much so that they left their house to go to a convenience store and initiate the transaction! THANKFULLY – you can credit intuition or your deity of choice – something triggered in their heads “scam!”
Still wary though, they now called my ex who my dad works with and who is an attorney. Of course he immediately confirmed that it smelled rotten to the core, and they promptly went home and this time when my mom called she laid out the whole sordid tale to me, and I just about peed my pants, first in HUGE relief that they didn’t send any money, and then with laughter because well…it was pretty funny how well all those events lined up to string them that far along. I alerted my son, who then saw the missed calls and so HE talked to her, and they laughed and well…we were all mostly relieved as I say.
We did discuss what to do in the future though. Questions and ways to validate the identity of any future callers and my sons (both of them) swearing that they would NEVER call them for anything like that and that under ALL circumstances they should call ME and confirm everything too.
Toward the bottom of that article is this other little tidbit:
When people have been scammed once, their phone numbers and information are sold to other tricksters.
Even though the first folks DIDN’T get any money, my parents’ number was probably still identified as one with potential. So a little after the holidays they tried again. My mom listened for a bit and then said she just didn’t believe them and even when the caller pleaded “Grandma! Don’t you care about me?!” Thankfully she didn’t fall for that, and the call ended. Of course, then she calls both me and my son again to make doubly SURE it was a scam, and we all had another laugh at it.
Then yesterday – AGAIN – this time the caller weaved a fantastic tale about traveling to Santiago, Chile and a friend who had a time share and all this wonderful stuff and how his voice might sound difference since he had a cold and…..oh hey, by the way, I got into a little trouble though….(red alert!) so my mom asked him what his last name is, and when he said “But grandma, you know it’s me, you said my name!” she insisted on him stating his full name and wouldn’t you know it, the caller hung up.
So we are hoping that the third failure is the charm and that they will trash the phone number. If not, we will take some small entertainment value at seeing what stories they come up with next.
In all seriousness – please, if you know any seniors, warn them about this scam. Have them setup some confirming questions to pose to the caller that only family would know. Better yet, just have them hang up! They target numbers in known retirement communities (such as my parents), and they are counting on their victims to not have caller ID and to have grandkids. Since it’s a cold calling outfit essentially, if they miss the mark on the first call, they will most likely ditch the number.
If you got this far – thank you – and please don’t forget to share to protect your own family + friends!