Robin Linley, a grandmother from Del City, Oklahoma, received a terrifying call recently. A caller pretended to be her eldest granddaughter, Tori, and stated that she had just been in a car crash and was in jail because she had been drinking. She needed to be wired money so that she could post bail.
Upset, Robin began to panic, but thanks to some quick thinking she noticed that the caller referred to her as "Grandma," when Tori always calls her "Nana." That's when Robin hung up without sharing any financial information, and alerted the rest of her family to the situation. They were quickly able to find Tori at work, unharmed, and completely unaware of what had just happened.
The Oklahoma Attorney General issued a warning in the state and also said the grandparent scam is third on the list of top scams that are targeting the people of Oklahoma this year. The scammer used a local Oklahoma phone number, which was then traced back to a caller ID spoofing app - thus making it impossible to find the criminal behind the call.
It isn't just in Oklahoma that the grandparent phone scam is happening. Sadly, it targets vulnerable seniors all over the country. The calls can be very convincing and can include a network of scammers working together to build a believable story that will con their victim out of money. Often the caller will state that they are traveling in a foreign country and they've lost their passport, or gotten in an accident, and need money wired to them so that they can get themselves out of a situation. Another scammer will join on the call pretending to be a police officer or lawyer confirming the dire situation that the caller is in.
Phone scammers continue to target grandparents with this scam because it is very effective and because seniors often lack the resources to report types of scams like this. The FBI has found that senior citizens are less likely to report a fraud because they don't know how to report it, or are too ashamed to admit they've been tricked. They may be especially concerned that relatives will doubt their mental capacity to be independent.
How you can protect your loved ones from the grandparent scam
The best way to protect your elderly loved ones is to make sure that they are aware of phone scams, and that they know they shouldn't automatically believe what a person says when they receive a call. Let them know that if they get a call stating that a family member is in an emergency they should call another family member to alert them to the situation. Even if the caller instructs them not to tell anyone, it's important that they let others in the family know about the situation.
Another way to protect elderly loved ones is by checking what information you're sharing on social media. This will help prevent scammers from finding personal details online that can be used to create a believable story on the phone. Set privacy settings so that you're only sharing information with people you know and trust, and limit the amount of information that you are sharing publicly.
If your grandparent or other elderly family member receives a call like this, be sure to report it to your local authorities and spread the word so that others are aware of this scam.