The Cleveland Chapter of the Better Business Bureau has a Senior Awareness program designed to help seniors avoid the scams that are so often directed at them. Not all of them are charity scams.
If you have doubt, it’s probably a scam. Get more information before you donate to an unknown charity.
One scam that stands out on BBB’s top ten list for 2012, is the “grandparent emergency scam.” This scam is a phone call or email from a loved one who is in danger/trouble, out of town, and needs money right away.
It sounds far-fetched, but it actually happened to a Hanson Services co-worker.
The co-worker’s grandmother received a phone call from a girl who addressed her as “Grandma” and said she was in trouble and needed money. A bad phone connection and Grandma’s hearing deficit may have worked in the scammer’s favor. But Grandma was savvy enough to make a few phone calls to check the scammer’s story. She discovered her granddaughter (my co-worker) was safely at work and unaware of the distress call. No money was sent, and the scammer lost that time.
Most likely the scammer quickly moved on to another target. Technology and social media make it relatively easy to fool us. Phone devices can alter, voices, caller ID, and locations. Social media sites provide our loved one’s names and photos, even nicknames. The elderly are a perfect target because many do not use or understand social media.
For example, a grandchild’s simple post showing a photo with the caption, “Me with Nana at the Smith family reunion” gives a potential scammer plenty of information.
We know that he has a grandmother on the Smith side of the family. He calls her “Nana.” We might even get more information like the location and other names of family members in photos. But even that one photo gives a scammer enough information to phone “Nana” in a panicky voice, tell her it’s an emergency, and ask for money.
Sadly, these predators use fear and urgency to take advantage of a grandparent’s love and affection for their grandchildren.