When it comes to scammers, nothing is sacred — including the bond between grandparent and grandchild. Lately, grandparent scammers have gotten bolder: they might even come to your door to collect money, supposedly for your grandchild in distress.
These kinds of scams still start with a call from someone pretending to be your grandchild. They might speak softly or make an excuse for why they sound different. They’ll say they’re in trouble, need bail, or need money for some reason.
The “grandkid” will also beg you to keep this a secret — maybe they’re “under a gag order,” or they don’t want their parents to know. Sometimes, they might put another scammer on the line who pretends to be a lawyer needing money to represent the grandchild in court.
But, instead of asking you to buy gift cards or wire money (both signs of a scam), the scammer tells you someone will come to your door to pick up cash. Once you hand it over, your money is gone. But you might get more calls to send money by wire transfer or through the mail.
To avoid these scams and protect your personal information:
- Take a breath and resist the pressure to pay. Get off the phone and call or text the person who (supposedly) called. If you can’t reach them, check with a family member to get the real story. Even though the scammer said not to.
- Don’t give your address, personal information, or cash to anyone who contacts you. And anyone who asks you to pay by gift card or money transfer is a scammer. Always.
- Check your social media privacy settings and limit what you share publicly. Even if your settings are on private, be careful about what personal identifiers you put out on social media.
If you lost money to this kind of scam, it was a crime, so file a report with local law enforcement. And if you get any kind of scam call, report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Emily Wu is an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission. This article originally was published in the FTC Consumer Information blog.