Consider the following phone conversation. This is a relatively new form of elder fraud referred to as the GRANNY SCAM.
Hazel in an 84 year old widow. She lives alone in her home, she volunteers in her local hospital gift shop 3 days/week, and she generally lives an active lifestyle. This evening her phone rings unexpectedly:
Caller: “Hi Grandma, I need help?”
Hazel: “Danny, is that you?”
Caller: “Yes Grandma, it’s Danny.”
Hazel: “What’s the matter Danny?”
Caller: “Listen, Grandma. I messed up. I’m in Mexico for my buddy’s wedding, and I got arrested. I swear Grandma, I didn’t do anything wrong. They won’t let me go unless until I pay $800, but I don’t have that much with me. Can you please wire me the money? I’ll pay you back as soon as I get home.”
Hazel: “Of course, Danny. Whatever you need.”
You know what happens next. Hazel goes to the local grocery store service desk and wires the money to “Danny,” but when she calls her daughter (Danny’s mother) later that evening, her daughter says “What are you talking about mom? Danny’s right here.”
This Granny Scam has been going on for a few years, but I’d be willing to bet that many of you have never heard of this. The elderly are particularly susceptible to this kind of scam for many reasons.
- They may be hard of hearing which makes it difficult to recognize voices over the phone.
- They are loving, trusting, and willing to help their children and grandchildren with anything they need.
- Since they don’t live in the same house, they don’t usually know exactly where their loved ones whereabouts.
- Often they live alone so they don’t have anyone in their home to talk the situation over with and then they end up making a hasty decision.
There are many other scams like this going around, though not all are targeted at the elderly. Another common one involves a man who calls to say that your loved one just crashed into his car. This man does not have insurance so he is not willing to involve the police and go through insurance for the repair. He claims that he will basically hold your loved one hostage until you pay up.
The common theme here is that the caller describes a scary, dangerous situation that causes you to act quickly and irrationally. Most if us, given the time to think things through and to call and check on our loved ones, would eventually figure out the scam before sending the money. I was incredibly close to falling for a similar scam myself several years ago so I know first hand how easy it is to fall for.
Please mention to your elderly loved ones that this kind of situation is something that they should be aware of. If someone ever reaches out to them (on the phone, over email, etc) demanding the exchange of money for any reason, the need to immediately call someone to talk through the situation and to determine the safety and location of the family member in question. Money should never be wired for any reason until every detail of the need has been verified.