What Is The Grandparent Scam?

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This scam I find particularly disgusting as it preys upon our treasured seniors who’ve worked so hard their whole lives, but it also works on any family member who has a loved who appears to be in distress.

Unfortunately, I get asked this a lot, what is the the grandparent scam?

what is the grandparent scamScammers pose as as a grandchild, and call or text begging you to wire them money asap because they have an emergency like they need to get out of a foreign country, need help paying an expensive hospital bill or even need money to get out of jail.  Their aim is to deceive you into sending them money prior to you realizing it’s a big fat scam!

So, what do you do?

Verify The Emergency

If somebody phones or sends you a text claiming to be your grandchild desperate for cash:

  • Resist the temptation to take action immediately, no matter how tragic the story is.
  • Verify the caller’s identity by asking them questions that a stranger would not be able to answer.
  • Call your grandchild’s phone number that you know is authentic.
  • Check out their story with your grandchild’s parents, even if they want you to keep it a secret.
  • Don’t EVER wire money or send them a money order or check by courier or overnight delivery
  • Report potential fraud by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP

Tricks Scammers Use

They convincingly impersonate your grandchild.

Surprisingly, it very easy for a scammer to impersonate someone.  It’s a piece of cake with Social networking websites to find out family and personal information.  Also, scammers could hack the email account of somebody you know.  To make their tale seem even more legit, they might get another scammer to claim that they are a police office or lawyer.

They make you swear to secrecy.

what is the grandparent scamScammers might insist you keep their appeal for money hush-hush to prevent you from verifying their story and establishing them as an imposter.

Injured parties frequently don’t realize they have been deceived until days later, when they speak to their actual grandchild who doesn’t have clue about the “emergency.”  At that point, the money they sent is long gone and can never be recovered.

They pressure you to wire the money immediately.

Scammers insist you wire the money because it’s just like sending them cash – once it’s been sent, you cannot trace it or ever get it back again.  Imposters love using money transfer services so as to get your cash before you become aware you’ve been defrauded.

Check out this video below:


Here’s what this family did to expose their scammer!

The Bottom Line

So, I hope I’ve answered your question What Is The Grandparent Scam?”  It’s sad to say, but this scam has been around for a long, long time and hopefully by reading this article you’ve been made aware of just how this scam goes down.

Please share this article with your friends and loved ones in order to keep them safe.  Have you or anyone else been a victim of this scam?  Please leave your comments below.  I’d love to hear from you and it might tip others off to another variation of this scam.


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  1. Diana


    If someone were to try to pull this on my grandmother, I would flip! That being said, I think my grandmother would be safe because she knows that when it comes to me, I would never ask her for money; she’s already done way more than enough for me.

    It really sucks that there are people out there so desperate for a buck that they have to prey on innocent elders who are kindhearted. Seriously, if you need the money, find yourself a job; or use all that misdirected work towards starting your own business instead of scamming someone’s grandparents.

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m gonna talk to my grandmother about this just to be on the safe side.


    • Barb

      Hi, Diana!  Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.  I love hearing from my readers.

      Unfortunately, these scammers have no conscience and don’t care who they scam as long as they get their hands on your money.

      It’s a good idea to have a talk with your grandmother and make her aware just in case she gets a call from one of these scammers.  Maybe, even have a code word that let’s her know it’s really you.

  2. Brian

    One of the things that makes my blood boil are those who try to take advantage of the elderly/seniors. They worked hard for everything in their lives and people are so vile to try and take some of those things away from them!

    There was a local news story in my state about an elderly woman who received a phone call from whom she thought was her grandson and was in jail and needed help to get out of jail. The person on the other end of the phone said that she needed to send over $2,000 worth of gift cards. She was going to go and do that, but the cashier at the WalGreens where she went to buy them said that it was suspicious and told the woman that this is a scam and would not sell her all those gift cards.

    The woman later called her grandson who was fine and never was in jail. The grandparent scam is real and can strike anywhere. Like you said, it is important to be aware of the types of scams going on so that you and others do not become victims.

    • Barb

      Thanks, Brian, for dropping by and sharing your story.  By sharing our experiences, we learn to avoid these scams and defend ourselves and others against scammers.

      That Walgreens employee is a real hero saving that woman from being scammed.  We really need to watch out for one another, particularly, the vulnerable.

      There will always be unscrupulous people out there, but I’d like to think that the good outweighs the bad.  That Walgreens employee is a perfectly “good” example

      Once again, thanks so much for sharing.

  3. pmbaluka2016

    It’s so true scammers find it easy to scam old people by convincing them that their loved ones are in trouble. My grandparents are long gone, so if I received a call such as this it would be a wrong number at the same time. I think the same kind of scam can be used on any member of the family.   This is an excellent post that gives tips on how to stay safe.

    I hate scammers because they reap where they’ve not planted. I think your advice to resist the urgency of sending any money immediately is very important. The scammers take advantage of the love the old people have towards their children and grandchildren which is really bad. I’ve watched those videos and they make a lot of sense.

    Just one more concern, what is the international number that can be used to report a scam? For example, if I’m in Africa or wherever, what is the right channel of reporting scam and how do I get assisted?

    Best wishes


    • Barb

      Hi, Paul!  Thanks for dropping by and sharing.  I really love hearing from my readers.

      Yes, the elderly are the most vulnerable to this type of scam, but it can and does work with any family member. This particular scam plays on your emotions so it’s very important to take a step back and not simply react.  Try and verify who this person is and contact other family members to make sure the story is legit.

      As far as reporting a scam in a country other than the United States you can simple Google “Where to report a scam in (country)” and you’ll get a list of agencies.

      Thanks again for sharing.  Stay safe.

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