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Attention Grandparents: Watch out for phony debt collectors

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My grandma kept an eye out for cheaters. (No, not that kind.) Back in the day, if a salesman knocked on her front door, she waved them off. Before caller ID, she hung up on telemarketers. But a call from a phony debt collector? She might have fallen for that one. Especially if the debt collector said she was responsible for her grandchild’s debt. 

Here’s what’s happening: A fake debt collector calls you. They want to collect on a debt your grandchild (supposedly) failed to pay. They ask you to wire money, send a prepaid card or give your credit card number – immediately. And if you won’t – or can’t – pay? That’s when the threats begin:

“Your grandchild will be arrested.”
“He’ll lose his job.”
“We’ll suspend her driver’s license.”

Unless you co-signed a loan, you’re never responsible for someone else’s debt. In fact, debt collectors can’t legally tell you that someone – anyone – else even has a debt.

If you get one of these calls, stop. Don’t be rushed into sending money. Don’t verify any personal or financial information. And hang up if the caller threatens you. Debt collectors can’t do that. It’s not legal. Once you’re off the phone, report the call to the FTC.

Want more? Read our tips on how to avoid family emergency scams. And check out Pass It On, our campaign that encourages older adults to talk to others about avoiding scams.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit


I raised my children to be self sufficient and I am sure they have taught their children to be the same. I would never get caught in this scheme.

Thanks for the information given to us for scammers, keep us informed, God bless you. Ersal S Baydar

Thank you for this service. A short time ago we lost about $3000.00 to a grandparents scam. (You have the report). I wish I had seen this prior to that scam phone call. Our local police had the story printed in our hometown newspaper, (without using our names), as they take scams seriously too.

It would be helpful to include the phone number for the FTC.

You can report the call to the FTC using the link in the blog post, or by calling 10877-FTC-HELP.

just got another call not from paying someone's else debit,these dam,computer scammers my forth one this week from the same,so call company 1-661-380-4001 an many numbers across the top of my caller ID,V07100955360077 at 12:26 pm today.will thet ever STOP?

thank you,,,,that is sure a big help....

Good idea. Why not send to list of retirement communities.

Thank you for sending me this. I'm getting a lot of emails that say I have several million dollars and I have to pay money to get it. Please have someone to advise me. Thank you

As a co-signer for our grand daughter's college tuition, we do not understand the Pros & Cons of such a commitment. Can you explain this, please?

Read this FTC article to learn about Co-signing a Loan.

Wonderful information it's awful these predators pray on our elderly

We (My wife and I) were scam for about $800 trying to help our daughter out. In fact just the other day we got a call that a company filled charges against our daughter and us. For a loan that she had taken out back in 2013. They were going to they were going to take both us and our daughter. I had know ideal of the loan. We did settle with the company.

If you give a written request to a debt collector, he has to give you written proof of the debt. It's against the law for a company to not give you proof of the debt.

If you already repaid the loan, the call might be from a fake debt collector who is trying to scare you into paying more money.  Read this FTC article about Fake Debt Collectors for tips on what to do.

You can report problems you're having with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

I am not even a Grandparent, and the calls I get are for Carlos Gonzales ... for years! I stayed on the line as instructed by The Robot Lady, and when the Human came on, I let her have it! I used words that are Not in any Dictionary! They called again a Couple of days later! The saga Continues!

i do not care cause god is with me

angeldust2: did you send them the money? How much did you get? I have this happening too.

If someone asks you to pay for a prize, or to get money you "won," it could be a scam. They might ask you to send money by wire transfer, or send a stored value card to pay for "fees" or "processing;" those are signs of a scam too. They might ask for your bank account number so they can "deposit your prize money," but if you give someone your bank account number they can take your money.

Read about Prize Scams in this FTC article.

EVERYONE gets those. They are just a scam. If you fall for it and send them money they will ask you to send even more, for 'taxes, fees, international costs, etc etc,,.'. My Dad fell for one that said from the head of some country saying he won a lottery. They never ever EVER actually send you a single penny.

We're getting calls from 866-640-5206 about a student loan which doesn't exist. They wanted to verify our Social Security numbers.

We are getting calls from a fake student loan. Right away they wanted to verify Social Security information.

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