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“Grandpa Scam” Targets Vulnerable California Seniors

nursing home abuseInstances of financial fraud against senior Americans is on the rise, with an estimated 10,565 complaints logged in 2015, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Among the most sinister is the so-called “Grandpa Scam,” in which fraudsters posing as grandchildren call elderly people, asking for emergency funds under false pretenses.

The AARP cautions that people 50 and older are seen as easy targets for financial abuse. “They expect honesty in the marketplace, are less likely to take action when defrauded, and are less knowledgeable about their rights in an increasingly complex marketplace.”

Grandpa scams fleecing seniors

Seniors are also more likely to pick up the telephone when it rings, giving scammers the perfect window for duping their targets. The phone conversation usually begins with the con artist saying “hello grandma” or “hi grandpa, this is Jimmy” (or whatever the family member’s name happens to be) and then launching into a bogus story about crashing their car or being arrested and needing money right away. When elderly victims are wary or seem confused, scammers continue the ploy with lines like “don’t you recognize my voice grandad?” or “Can I share a secret with you, but no one else?”

Desperate to help their distraught grandchildren, dozens of seniors have been conned out of thousands of dollars before realizing the truth.

The AARP reported on a recent Grandpa scam in California, in which the victim wired $1,500 to his supposed grandchild Ralph, who pleaded for bail money over the phone. It wasn’t until the scammer called a second time, asking for more money that the victim understood what had transpired. When asked by his friends how he could have fallen for such a trick, he answered “I was so concerned about Ralph, and they had the story down so well.”

Financial cons against older Americans

Financial elder exploitation remains a huge concern as America’s senior population continues to grow.  According to Consumers Digest, some 5 million cases of financial exploitation are reported in the U.S. every year. But how do these scammers get the names of family members and other private information in the first place?  According to the Federal Trade Commission, social media sites like Facebook are often tapped for intimate details, and a lot of personal information can be purchased or stolen as well.  Other times, fraudsters will simply try calling random phone numbers until an elderly person picks up.

Considering that financial scams against the elderly are more rampant than ever, it’s important to protect yourself and your loved ones against these harms.

Tips to avoid being scammed:

  • If you get a call from someone claiming to be a relative who is asking for money, always hang up and consult with another family member to verify the truth
  • Never give out sensitive financial information, including credit card numbers, passwords, routing numbers or bank account numbers, over the phone
  • Do not agree to claim a sweepstakes or lottery prize over the phone or by email– this is a common ploy used to glean private info
  • Report unwanted telemarketing calls or soliciting calls and emails to the FTC for investigation

Legal assistance in Los Angeles, CA

Taking advantage of elderly citizens is an unspeakable crime, and one that should not go unpunished. If someone you love has fallen victim to the “Grandpa scam” or other types of financial exploitation, California laws provide legal recourse.

Los Angeles elder abuse attorney Sean Salamati is well-versed in identifying telemarketing scams and the financial exploitation of older residents. To schedule a free and confidential case review, we invite you to call 888-259-4060.

Additional “elder scams” resources

  1. AARP, How to Beat the Grandparent Scam http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2016/how-to-beat-grandparent-scam.html
  2. CNBC, The ‘Grandpa Scam’ That’s Costing Seniors a Bundle http://www.cnbc.com/2014/07/18/the-grandpa-scam-thats-costing-seniors-a-bundle.html
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