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'Creative and cruel' | Here's how to protect loved ones from falling victim to the 'grandparent scam'

The United States Department of Justice has a national hotline to fight elder fraud, you can call 1-833-fraud-11.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A scam that preys on older people hasn’t let up during the pandemic.

In fact, it’s gotten worse.

We’re talking about the grandparent scam.

Spoofing a call is easy, a scammer makes it look like someone else is calling, maybe even a family member. With kids putting so much information about themselves out there through social media, experts say it’s not hard to gather all that and then make a phony phone call. 

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“These scammers are creative and cruel. They will come up with things that would never occur to you and me,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said. He warns people about this scam a lot because sadly, it works, and here’s how.

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“Hey Grandma, it’s Joey, I need money right now, don’t call Mom and Dad, and I need the money right now or else they are going to put me in prison.  All the victim ends up doing is sending thousands to these criminals," Stein said. 

The United States Department of Justice has a national hotline to fight elder fraud, you can call 1-833-fraud-11.

Credit: Tim - stock.adobe.com
Word Scam on the background of one hundred dollar bills

“Anyone asking you to send money right now is a big red flag,” Maria Vento, Assistant U.S. Attorney and Elder Fraud Coordinator for the Western District of North Carolina, said. 

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The FBI received 650 complaints during the pandemic, and families have lost a staggering $13 million. 

How do you avoid becoming a victim?

  • First, be skeptical. Absolutely call other family members, even if you are told not to do that by the person on the phone. 
  • Last, don’t panic, your loved one is fine, no matter what that scammer impersonating them is telling you. Above all else, do not pay anyone anything.

This is worthy of an ongoing conversation with older family members, not just a quick mention.

Contact Bill McGinty at bmcginty@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook.

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to the Defenders team by emailing money@wcnc.com.