As a grandparent, there is likely not much you wouldn’t do to help a grandchild. Sadly, there are scam artists out there who use that fact to prey – with much success — on the elderly in what has come to be known as the “Granny Scam.” In an effort to help prevent you from becoming a victim, the Vero Beach elder law attorneys at Kulas & Crawford explain the “Granny Scam” and offer tips to help you avoid falling prey to other financial exploitation of the elderly scams.
What You Need to Know about Elder Financial Abuse
Although the problem of elder abuse and neglect is not a new problem in the United States, it has gained considerable attention in recent years as the population of older adults continues to increase. By 2050, experts predict that the number of older Americans (age 65 and older) will outnumber their younger counterparts (age 21 and younger) for the first time in history. The increase in the elderly population has provided a correspondingly larger victim pool for many scam artists. Precise figures relating to elder abuse and neglect of any type are difficult to come by for several reasons. One reason is that elderly victims are reluctant to admit that they have been victimized because they are ashamed or embarrassed. It is also frequently the case that elderly victims depend on the perpetrators for everything from daily caregiving to a roof over their heads, making them fear reprisals if they report the abuse. Figures that are available, however, indicate that as many as five million instances of elderly financial abuse occur each year in the U.S. Furthermore, the perpetrators of financial exploitation of the elderly are not always strangers. As many as 60 percent of those perpetrators are family members, usually adult children or their spouses. The “Granny Scam,” however, is not perpetrated by family members but by complete strangers.
The Granny Scam – How It Works and How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
Known as the “Granny Scam” because it preys on grandparents and their desire to help a grandchild, the scam involves a perpetrator calling an older individual where a caller pretends to be someone’s grandchild, saying they are in trouble and need a specific amount of money. It might be because a grandchild is supposedly in jail, stranded on the roadway, or had a purse/wallet stolen in another state or even country and can’t get home. Through obituaries, Facebook, social media, they are able to get a lot of information about a victim before they make the phone call. They will know your grandchild’s name, where he/she lives, who his/her significant other is. Seniors make excellent targets for the scam for several reasons, including their tendency to be more trusting in general, their lack of knowledge about technology and social media, and their willingness to help a grandchild who is supposedly in trouble.
A single Facebook post can provide a scammer with a wealth of information about the family dynamics. When they call, they have the grandchild’s name, parent’s name (who of course CAN’T know about this because the grandchild will be in BIG trouble), work information, location where everyone lives, and even extra’s like a reference to a recent vacation. To an elderly victim, it sounds legitimate and the next thing you know they are wiring that $2,000 for “bail, car repairs, or a plane ticket home” to the scammer – who is most likely overseas and “ghosting” their phone number to make it appear as though it is a local number. To avoid becoming a victim of this, and other scams that target the elderly:
- Check your privacy settings on Facebook and other social media (or have your grandchild do it)
- Be careful how much information you share on social media even if your privacy setting are set correctly. A single “share” by the wrong person, whose settings are not on private, could completely negate all your efforts to keep your posts private.
- Never wire money or transfer money to someone you don’t know.
- Ask for proof if you get a call claiming a grandchild, or anyone else, is in trouble. Get a number to call back and do some fact checking.
- Use a codeword in the family. If the caller doesn’t know the codeword, it isn’t legitimate.
Contact Vero Beach Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding elder law, contact an experienced Vero Beach elder law attorney at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.