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Grandpa spots scammers

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One of my favorite parts about working at the Federal Trade Commission is hearing stories of folks avoiding a scam. A recent story involves Lou, who picked up the phone and spotted the scam almost as soon as he heard the young man call him “Grandpa.” The caller said he’d been arrested for drunk driving, needed money for bail, and wanted Lou to call a “lawyer” who would explain everything. (All while not telling “Mom.”)

“I played along with it,” said Lou, 87, who was curious to hear the scammer’s pitch. But Lou also called his daughter, a consumer lawyer. She knew this scam — someone pretends to be a friend or family member in need of money for bail, a medical emergency, or other trouble. His grandson was fine.

The scammers used common tricks.

  • They tested Lou to see how much money they could get. They first claimed bail was $7,000, but when Lou said he only had half that amount, the fake lawyer said he could get the bail reduced. Usually, scammers ask you to wire the money or get a prepaid card and give them the numbers on the card. If you do, your money will be gone.
  • They tried to keep Lou from talking to anyone. They even told Lou he could be arrested and fined if he told anyone about their conversation. Why? Scammers don’t want you talking to anyone else. They want you to act fast, without thinking too carefully.
  • The scammers used information Lou gave them to make their story seem more real. For example, the fake grandson told Lou the accident occurred “in the city.” When Lou named the District of Columbia, the fake grandson said, “Yes. In D.C.” Scammers also get information from social networking sites, or by hacking a loved one’s email account.

If you get a call like this, get off the phone and check it out. Call your loved one using a phone number you know is theirs, or call another family member. Then, tell a friend your story. By talking about this scam, you can help someone else avoid it. And please, tell us too.



The best defense for me against these really irritating imposters is to just let the answering machine pick it up.
Nevertheless, these calls are capable of interrupting your entire day...all day long sometimes. Most don't leave a message..those that do sound like the female ogre with the scratchy voice representing the IRS (who, obviously, according to her, the very least...going to come to arrest me!)
Thank you for your interventions the many times I have contacted you. I could tell that it helped cut down on the calls to my home.

On my answering machine, I just put the message that "I'm monitoring my calls please state your business and leave your name and number". It's astonishing how many just hang up. It sure saves time and energy from answering these call.

Mines imposer lives with me and my family,5yearchild.

Thank you many agents of FTC for your protection. Sincerely, Cheryl

? Do you mean that a person who lives in your home carries out scams similar to the one described in the article?

I almost fell for a scam. The hacker used one of My friends name, and said if I send $100.00 I would get 1,000 etc.
I went out and tried to send $2,000, and all the machines were down. I'm sure it was divine intervention. When I got home, I couldn't get on line. When I finally got back on line, the scammer wanted Me to friend Him on Facebook. They really have a lot of nerve, and NO conscience!!

I received a similar call from someone who called me Grandma. Since that's not what my grandkids call me I figured it was a scam. As a test I said "Is that you Buddy?" which is not my grandson's name. He said yeah and proceeded to tell me he had been in an accident. I made all the appropriate "Oh my" and "I'm so sorry" comments. When he got to the point about money I finally told him to call someone else because I wasn't his grandma and I wasn't going to send him any money. He hung up before I could. I know he was saying some unkind things about me since I had wasted so much of his time.

A friend did something similar. Her grandchildren call her by the Italian name ofr grandma. So when the caller said Grandma, she knew immediately something was up & let him know. I too don't answer calls I or my phone doesn't recognize the number. If it's important, the caller will leave a message.

I had a similar call just today from 604-616-1375BC. I have never seen initials at the end of a telephone number before this. The young sounding woman claimed to be my granddaughter and tried to shame me into saying my granddaughter's name. Fortunately I had heard of someone who was taken in by this scam and I didn't fall for it.

My "Grandma" call came just after my mother died. Since I don't have children, my mother had no grandchildren. The scammer asked for Grandma [my mother's name]. There are a lot of folks who called my mother Grandma, so at first I wasn't sure. Then I realized that all of the folks who would have called her that knew she had died. I played along a while to see what the pitch was - another "I've been in an accident and I was arrested and I need money for bail." When he stopped to take a breath, I told him he wasn't a very good grandson if he didn't even know his grandmother had died! Like another person here, he beat me to hanging up. Just wish I had thought to get the number.

This scam works because people are trusting and give out a whole lot more information than they realize. It's the same principle that keeps fortune tellers going. Another aspect is that the scammers think elderly people are too senile to even remember their grandchildren. A third is that a lot of seniors are lonely because they don't get to see their families and grandchildren that often, and they're flattered that a "grandchild" called, even if it is in search of money. If you can eliminate any one of those three legs of this scam, it has a lot more chance of falling down. My personal recommendation is that the younger generations try remembering that they are only here because of those folks further back up the line. Take a few minutes to call and talk, to visit, to show your grandparents that they still matter. That will help them remember your names and know your voices!

My 80 year old mother in law got this call. The scammers said they were her grandson and he needed money because he was in trouble while on vacation in Mexico. As soon as she asked "Patrick" to tell her his middle name, they hung up.

My 80 yr. old mother, now 82, got the Grandma call too. She said it was a male asking for money for bail because of an accident. That not to tell mom or dad. I don't know how much they asked her for. She didn't recognize the voice, and asked which grandson he was. They hung up.

As a grandma, I received the exact same story as "Grandpa" in this story. Only dif was he wanted $3000. This, very early before scam became public. First, I was eager to help. Then, I said, "why don't you call your Dad?" . When he said, "he'd get mad", I knew something wrong. Hung up. Next day, a "bank" called and wanted the $. I said, "no" and hung up. Even so, I felt worred.

This happened to my dad and he lost $7000.00 because he didn't call the family to verify it first and got the cards then giving them the numbers

I received this call several years ago. I knew it was a scam from the first word but I played along for a few minutes. The caller claimed to be my oldest grandson. After awhile I asked what his name was. He couldn't hang up fast enough!!!

I work for the Norfolk Senior Center in Norfolk Nebraska and I get your emails and AARP's scam alerts and I share this information with all my seniors. I have had the Better Business Bureau, our local police department and our Northeast Nebraska Area Agency on Aging. I can't tell you how many times I have shared all this information. From hearing stories from our crowd I have heard 3 stories where they have the Grandparents scam actually affect them (they paid the money) BUT I have also hear MORE that had listened.. And avoided the scammers.. Yesterday I over heard one of my exercise ladies say she had recognized the scam and decided to have fun with them. But I told her she also should of called the police.. She said next time she will. My question for you is when they target these people is it only landlines? Have you heard any where they call cellphones? I will share this information with my seniors. And I wish to thank you for keep us the public informed.. If there is any information that you can give me that you believe would help us I would be greatful.. this is my email address..

Hi Jenn! Thanks for writing and letting us know how you're using this information.  We don't publish personal information like email addresses in the blog posts, so we removed your email address.

As far as we know, the scammers call phone numbers at random. They don't distinguish between landlines and cell phones. So anyone who has a phone could get a call.

You can order free print fact sheets to hand out or leave out in the common areas at the Senior Center. Our bulkorder website has a collection of fact sheets and bookmarks on topics of interest to older adults -- IRS imposters, grandparent scams, identity theft, fake computer help and more. You can order as much as you want, and the material and shipping are free. If you have questions about publications, write to Thanks again.

I actually just had a scammer call my cell about an hour ago threatening me with arrest and claiming to be IRS. So yes they do in fact call cell phones.

Sever scams have been tried on us because we are senior citizens and dog breeders. None have worked and finally they quit trying.

I keep getting these threatening emails from different people about sending month to pay a pay day loan account off beforehand they sue me. II replied by telling them they had the wrong person because I don't do pay day loans or such loans as these. The email always has a different amount owed and the supposed case manager is always different. The language is horrible. However they persist in emailing me 1-2 times every week saying the very same thing. It's very frustrating but I don't know what to do to block them. I even sent the email address to the FTC. If anyone knows how to block an email please help me. Thank you!!

JMH, you need to get a better spam filter for your email, and you won't have to see those foolish emails.

If you use Outlook for email on your PC, you can create a rule in Outlook to delete certain messages (certain sender emails, or if they have a certain word in the subject line, etc.)

As a professional in the aging network and working in adult protective services it is really important that if people receive such calls they contact their local law enforcement agency and also the state consumer protection bureau. Those agencies can send out alerts to the media to remind people, "Don't fall for this". I think it is also important people know that billions of dollars are raised this way by scammers and much of that money winds up being laundered in countries like Jamaica and used for buying guns, drugs, and funding terrorist activities. Don't be a part of funding what you hate!

I got a call that I missed Jury Duty. I said "what do You mean I missed Jury Duty. I am on Jury Duty. What is your name and badge number"? I am the foreman and will tell the judge Robert J. Carter . They hung up.scam the scammers.

The jury duty scam happened to my in-laws. My father-in-law was on his way to get a prepaid card when my mother-in-law called to tell us what happened. Luckily, my husband was able to get ahold of his father on his cell and tell him it was a scam before any money changed hands.

Whatever happened to "Is your refrigerator running?"

Those were such innocent days!

hahaha good one!

hahaha,love it or do u have prince albert im a can. oh the days of innocence are long gone.

They wouldn't make any money off of that line.

These people do not do anything else in life except to go for money on the spot, no matter who, where or when.
I had received some calls from different phone #'s from CÁ, MN, WA and you named. Once, I was tired of so many calls that I answer one and the hacker asked me :"it is ....... my first name?" I said : No, you got the wrong number. Then, she proceeded, but this phone number belongs to ..... I said: I have no idea what this person is. The hacker proceeded: Anyway, "we" have your phone # in the list of people who will be procedures by the government if you do not appeal in court in time to avoid further action by the government. OMG! I said! First of all, who is "we" and you are so dumb, you even know my name and how I would end up in a government list as a phone #. So, they hung up and never call me back.

Prank calls became far less common as caller ID became virtually standard in most homes. These days, most of the unwanted calls are people trying to trick you out of money or personal info.

These stories are very sad. However why do you not put more on about the dating scams on the dating sites and Facebook?
It's running rampant and the people these romance scanners are the elderly.
Many people have lost their homes and savings and some even their famlies.
These dating sites need to have tighter control of who the let on. Most of the scams are done with idenity theft. Something needs to be done about this terrible situation.

We actually have written a few blog posts about romance scammers, and people often share their experiences. Read Faking it — scammers’ tricks to steal your heart and money, or watch our video about Online Romance Imposter Scams, and share the information.

All FTC information is free and in the public domain, so you can copy & paste it right into your own social media posts, or add links from our blogs into your blog or emails. We'd be really grateful if you did!

The Romance con is an old one. Con artiest will always try the sure and true ways of getting someones money. We have just made it easier for the con artiest to get the money. We have made it so easy with social media and online banking. Personally I think that we put to much information in are social media sites. Some people put were they are and what they are doing every minute of the day. It just makes the con artiest's job that much easier. We really should be more careful about how much we put out in the media.

and thats why I choose NOT to use social media

This scam happened to my Dad. The scammer was clever enough to call him Pappaw, which is common name for Grandpa in this area. They called him with the car accident story and wanted money wired to him for "legal costs". A clerk at Krogers ,who was helping with money transfers,prevented my Dad from wiring the money by telling him to call his grandson first. Of course when he did, his grandson told him that he had not called. When my Dad returned home, another call from my son's alleged lawyer was received. My Dad told him to call his other number so he could hear better, and gave him the Sheriff' Department number.

Great idea. I'm going to use the sheriff's # in the future. My scammers somehow call through local #'s so it looks like a neighbor calling on the ID that comes up

If everyone had caller ID and an answering machine, as we do, the scammers would have to get a real job because no one would ever talk to them.

We do the same thing. That is the easiest and best way to avoid dealing with these creeps.

no way am i going to pay $8.50 per month for the caller i d service when almost all scammers will be "spoofing" the info that displays on my phone. The scammers usually show a number that, when called back, is "disconnected or is no longer in service". if everyone paid 8.50/month, maybe phone company could be sued class-action style, for not delivering accurate caller i d info to us.

What should be shut down are the websites that allow scammers to use spoofed phone numbers. The websites claim it is all in fun, but not anymore. If I wanted to pay the price, I could call a friend and have the white house phone number show up.

Great idea! A petition might work.

My husband got that call,we don't even have grandkids!

I HAVE discovered that if you answer a call and it's a "marketer", wait for the CID to appear and immediately HANG UP! For some reason, those calls do not come back. I have no idea why, but it has worked for months and I'm getting fewer and fewer of them. But you must hang up ASAP as the called ID shows; wait for another ring (3rd) and it doesn't work.

I had a scammer call me back 10 times each time I hung up. The last time he called back he called me every foul name under the sun.

Just got a "Grandpa" call from my imaginary grandson, "Justin." The guy must have read your blog this morning... he followed exactly the scam you describe. I let him spin his nonsense for quite a while and then told him that he is being reported to the FTC. He the hung up promptly.

Thanks for reporting.

When you report these calls to, the details you provide go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies nationwide use for investigations.

Just recently received a "Grandma" call, & of course the first thing I said was, "Seth". He replied "Yes". I told him he sounded funny, & he said his throat was a little sore, so I asked him what his last name was. He snickered & said, "Oh grandma, you know my last name, & I know yours." Then he said my last name but I told him I wanted to hear his full name from him, & he hung up.

My daughter-in-law's mother fell for a dating type scam. She has currently lost about $75,000 before the family took her to court to turn over her finances. The story was that this guy was overseas buying cars to return to the states but needed money to complete the purchases. He would pay her back as soon as he returned. Right! This started about 4 months ago. He talked her into setting up new bank accounts, funding them with cash withdrawals from her credit cards and 401k. Everyone in the family told her it was a scam but she STILL does not believe them. No one knows for sure how many bank accounts, loans and credit card withdrawals she has done for this man. She continues to correspond with him and doesn't believe it is a scam so she won't make a report. No way to make her see reason. The family is heartbroken and very worried. Only time will tell what actually happens.


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