The Grandparent Scam

I find this scam so obvious, so well-known, I wouldn’t even write about it, but my kind-hearted wife was ready to fall for it, so I thought there are still some who need to be warned. Just Google “grandparent scam” to see more examples.  The scam is so common, it has its own name.

It is the old phone scam of “This is your grandson (or granddaughter). I’m in jail. Don’t tell my parents. I have a lawyer and he will call you shortly.” I would have hung up at that point. My grandson would never ask such a thing, and even if he did, I would not get involved in deceiving his mother and father. He would know that.

My wife took the call and I noticed her talking worriedly into the phone. When she hung up, she told me the story: That was our grandson, he was driving near Baltimore and was in a car accident (not his fault) and is being held in jail until the court date, don’t tell his parents, he has a lawyer, and the lawyer will call: the classic scam, word-for-word, even that he may sound different because he has a broken nose from the accident. It was the same story one of our widowed classmates told me a year ago, and it was old then.

I just laughed. I told my wife, “That’s a common scam. Ignore it!”

She was reluctant to believe me. “But it sounded just like him,” she said. (The scammer will often sprinkle in some personal details they found on the Internet, such as a pet’s name or a vacation spot. They expect a high percentage of failures, but just one hit or two is enough. One scammer made $10,000 on a good day.) The lawyer will ask that you send him bail money that will be refunded once the grandchild shows up at the trial.

Just then the “lawyer” called, and I listened in on the extension phone. I thought he had a slight foreign accent and I called to my wife from the other room that it was a scam. He must have heard this and quickly hung up.

Still, my wife was doubtful. “All of my friends would have responded just as I did,” she protested.

“That just means you should have more skeptical friends.”

(They say the scam is successful because many grandparents are so desperate to maintain contact with their grandchildren that they are ready to believe anything. Then, if they send money, they are embarrassed by their gullibility and don’t report it to the police. )

“But the lawyer didn’t ask for money.”

“Not yet, but that would be the next step.”

The whole saga ended when I found our son’s (his father) cell phone number, and she called him directly at work. He laughed, too. “You’ve been scammed!” he immediately told her.

That, she finally believed.

(When I answer such a scam, I ask, “How about I just give you my bank password and social security number so you can take whatever you need?” When they agree that would be an easy solution, I laugh and hang up.)


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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