Pretending to be grandchild in distress a ruse

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2011

By Shelley Smith
SALISBURY — The “Grandma/Grandpa” scam is making a big comeback, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said.
And the caller usually doesn’t know who he or she is calling, just hoping they’ll take the bait.
When the senior citizen answers the telephone, the caller, sounding distressed, will say, “Grandma?”
If the senior citizen believes the caller is a grandchild and uses a name, the scammer takes that information and runs with it.
“Yeah, it’s me,” the caller says, using the name of the grandchild just provided by the intended victim. The scammer then “asks grandparents to wire money to a certain place,” Cooper said.
“They’ll say they’ve been in a wreck overseas, something like that, and they need money,” he said.
In 2011 Cooper’s office has heard from four victims of this scam and has taken a total of 23 complaints. The victims were scammed out of a total of $197,000.
“So these people are asking for substantial amounts of money from grandparents,” Cooper said.
But the scam artists have recently gotten even better, Cooper said.
“Now we’re finding these scam artists can go to Facebook and find specific information about these people and will call that person and have that information,” he said.
Cooper said everyone should verify who they’re talking with, because it’s very hard to investigate once the money has been sent.
“Make sure the story is solid before you send money,” he said.
Salisbury Police Detective Brent Hall said seniors are also taken advantage of because of the way they were raised — to be polite and trust people.
“They feel sorry for people,” he said. “And the reason (scammers) hit senior citizens is because they’re the ones that have the money, have the nest egg.”
Hall said older folks are also less likely to report fraud.
“Most are ashamed or don’t know they’ve been scammed,” he said.
And sometimes when they realize they have been scammed, it’s too late. The “nest egg” is gone.
Hall said he receives reports each month from relatives of senior citizens who have taken over their loved one’s finances and found large amounts missing. Sometimes, there’s barely anything left in the account.
Cooper said seniors are also targeted because some suffer from some form of dementia or memory loss.
Cooper’s staff educates senior citizens across the state, he said, and it’s always important for family and friends to continue to educate seniors about new scams.