Unfortunately, we often hear of how elderly clients are scammed. As estate planning attorneys, our goal is to always protect our clients and provide guidance to their families. Scams against our aging population is nothing new, but recognizing the potential can go a long way in ensuring it doesn’t affect your loved one. This week, we take a look at what law enforcement is calling the “Grandparent Scam”.
With baby boomers retiring, the number of elderly Americans is rising each year. This is ideal for those thieves wishing to take advantage of their vulnerabilities. They’re willing to sink to new lows and use one’s grandchildren as part of their plots. The grandparent scam targets an elderly person through a phone call and uses the “fear factor”. While scam artists may not know if their target even has grandchildren, they play the odds. When they’re successful, they can easily scam thousands of dollars from their victims.
A phone call to a grandparent is how it starts. The caller claims he’s the grandson or is calling on behalf of a grandchild. The caller explains that the grandchild is in trouble and needs money wired to him immediately. Some are even brazen enough to provide specifics, such as claims that the grandchild is traveling out of country. Most grandparents know if their family members are on vacation, but this doesn’t stop a scammer. Naturally, Grandma wants to protect her grandchild and her first reaction is to immediately send whatever is asked. Sometimes, the caller even acts as a lawyer, a police officer or a hospital.
The first thing a grandparent wants to do is the worst thing she can do. Avoid acting immediately. It’s important to make a phone call to another family member to find out if a grandchild is traveling. Also, it’s important that Grandma isn’t the only person who’s aware of this potential crisis. If a grandchild is truly in trouble, Mom and Dad should be notified. Of course, it’s important to never wire money based on a request such as this (the same applies to email).
Law enforcement should be contacted as well. The sooner the better. If the call is an attempt to scam, it’s important to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
It’s always better to proactively act by double checking the story than it is to react when it’s discovered it’s all been a scam. If an elderly loved one has released sensitive information, such as a credit card number, it’s absolutely crucial to cancel the card and have a new one issued.
This is an important reminder of how vulnerable many elderly truly are, especially when it comes to wanting to help their children and grandchildren without hesitation. In these cases, a bit of hesitation can make a world of difference.
To learn more about elder law and protecting your loved ones, contact our offices today. We stand ready to provide guidance and to help put into place those important protective mechanisms that can prevent your loved ones from becoming a victim.