About a year ago, my grandma received a disturbing phone call. It was my brother, calling her from Canada to report that he had gone for a bachelor party weekend and wound up arrested for possession of drugs. He needed my Grandma’s help and was too embarrassed to tell his girlfriend Kellie, as she would be pissed. He could not tell Mom, or myself for various reasons. Could she help him out? He needed a couple of grand – immediately – to bail him out of jail. Perhaps you can see where this is going.
My Gram was scammed, scammed scammed. She lay terrified all night, worried about my brother. She drove first thing the next morning to her bank, where she proceeded to take out $2,300 and FedEx it immediately to a Canadian address. Whaaaattt?!?!
My normally level headed Gram was baited incredibly well by this scammer. He sounded like my brother, he knew all of our family members names, and he sold her a convincing story. Had my Gram happened to check with me, she would have realized that I had spoken with and physically saw Brett twenty minutes before her peculiar call. He had borrowed my car as his was in the shop. Definitely not in Canada.
Gram was embarrassed but the next day asked how Brett was doing and reluctantly told the story to my mother and myself. My Mom was incredulous, but sent my Dad to work calling Fed Ex in a furious attempt to get the money returned. My Gram got extremely lucky and she had a happy ending. She actually did receive back her funds, but only because my Mom acted so quickly. And just dumb luck FedEx was able to locate the package. It still took almost 6 months to get her money returned to her. Crazy business.
Once we learned she would get her money back, I had to laugh or I would cry for her. The guy called back several times afterwards still trying to scam money somehow or other, but Gram had learned her lesson and cursed him out over the phone. Apparently this sort of “grandparent scheme” is a very common thing. The real kicker was the local police could not do much because since Grandma was getting her money back, there was “not really a crime”. Okay, then.
It is scary to think that someone could get the info of someone who is so….off the grid. My Gram is no technology genius, and has trouble working her VCR. Elderly people often find themselves the target of financial scams. It was just SO CREEPY that this dude had all of our info, sister, girlfriend, my Mom, etc. AND he sounded like Brett, too, or at least close enough that Gram had difficulty telling the difference.
I am not oblivious to the fact that this info is actually pretty easy to come by online these days, but it is super weird when it happens to you in real life. In addition to the “grandparent scheme”, there are others frequently used to target the elderly. If you have an elderly relative or friend who has been targeted, or to learn how to help protect against this type of fraud, check out some of these great resources. Even if the local police are unable to help such as in my Gram’s case, there are other avenues through which to report, and help to track and try to stop these horrible people from hurting others.
I urge you to talk with your elderly family members frequently, and check out the tips for preventing this from ever happening to your own loved ones at these great resources:
Report Fraud and Senior Scams With Help From ElderWatch – AARP
Top 10 Financial Scams Targeting Seniors
8 Tips For How Seniors Can Protect Themselves From Money Scams
Elderly Fraud Scams – How They’re Being Targeted and How To Prevent It
My Gram has a wonderful sense of humor and despite being incredibly embarrassed at the time, she has learned her lesson. I called her about a month after the fiasco, saying I was in Mexico and could really use about 1,000 bucks. She laughed her butt off and said, “Carls, you wish!” I teased her that I would be purchasing her a Canada ornament that Christmas, and she laughed again, “You’d better not, you little shit.” Love you too, Gram. See, the thing is: I can mess with my Gram, but NOT YOU, SCAMMER ASSHOLES. I take comfort in knowing that this time, this one scammer dude’s craptastic attempt was thwarted. Still scary to think it is most likely happening again to another grammy, somewhere else in the world right now.
Please report if you experience a scam, and do your part to try to prevent your loved one from becoming one of the senior statistics.