Grandparent scams have gotten super sneaky in recent years, which makes them difficult to spot. Here’s what to know about grandparent scams and how to avoid them.
How the scams play out
There are several variations of the grandparent scam. In each one, the caller claims to be a grandchild of the target. The scammer often spoofs the grandchild’s number so it shows up on the grandparent’s phone.
- The legal trouble scam. In this ruse, a scammer claiming to be their grandchild will call and claim to have been arrested. The “grandchild” asks them to send money for posting bail. They’ll pass the phone to an alleged representative to accept the funds via wire transfer or gift cards. But this is just the scammer’s partner in crime; not a real authority figure.
- The medical trouble scam. This version of the grandparent scam involves a “grandchild” calling up Grandma or Grandpa and claiming to be seriously injured. They’ll ask for money to help pay the medical bills.
- The international trouble scam. In this scam, a “grandchild” calls and claims they’re in deep trouble in a foreign country. They’ll ask for a big chunk of money to be sent by wire transfer or prepaid debit card for them to get out safely.
If you’re targeted
If you believe you’re being targeted by a grandparent scam or a similar ruse, follow these steps to keep yourself safe:
- Don’t take immediate action. Pause and think it through before blindly sending money.
- Ask the caller to answer a personal question only your grandchild will know.
- Check your grandchild’s whereabouts by hanging up and calling your grandchild directly. Chances are, your grandchild is just fine.
- Hang up and report the crime to your local police department and the FTC.
Safety rules to know
It’s a good idea to follow these rules for protection from grandparent scams and other ruses:
- Never share personal info online or on the phone with an unverified contact.
- If you’re asked to pay for something via money transfer or prepaid gift card, it’s probably a scam.
- Put your number on the no call list.
- Keep your social media privacy settings at their strongest and limit what you share on public forums.