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“Grandma: I’m in the hospital, sick, please wire money right away.” “Grandpa: I’m stuck overseas, please send money.” Grandparent scams can take a new twist – and a new sense of urgency – in these days of Coronavirus. Here’s what to keep in mind.

In grandparent scams, scammers pose as panicked grandchildren in trouble, calling or sending messages urging you to wire money immediately. They’ll say they need cash to help with an emergency like paying a hospital bill or needing to leave a foreign country. They pull at your heartstrings so they can trick you into sending money before you realize it’s a scam. In these days of Coronavirus concerns, their lies can be particularly compelling. But we all need to save our money for the real family emergencies.

So, how can we avoid grandparent scams or family emergency scams? If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a grandchild, other family member or friend desperate for money:

  • Resist the urge to act immediately – no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Verify the caller’s identity. Ask questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer. Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine. Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
  • Don’t send cash, gift cards, or money transfers – once the scammer gets the money, it’s gone!

For more information, read Family Emergency Scams. And if you get a scam call, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

(This blog is part of the FTC's imposter scam series.)

 

 

 

26 Comments


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Jane
April 03, 2020
This happened to me 3 months before Coronavirus emerged. Very convincing but I asked a secret question and got the caller mixed up. Worst was he sounded like my relatives on phone.
KATRAZKA
April 03, 2020
HOLA BUENAS TARDES QUISIERA SABER O COMENTAR TAMBIEN SOBRE LA SENORA MARIA TEL: 4077152257 QUE REPRESENTA A FABRICA QUE SE LLAMA SPECIAL CRAFT AND HOMEWORK JOBS INC DICE QUE NO TIENEN PAGINA WEB PARA EVITAR LE COPIEN ELLA PIDE 70 DOLARES COMO DEPOSITO, NO PUEDO ASEGURAR SEA FRAUDE YA QUE NO TENGO PRUEVAS PERO TAMBIEN ME LLAMA LA ATENCION QUE DESPUES DE 6 ANOS ESTA SENORA SIGA CON LO MISMI. O ES LEGAL Y POR ESO AUN SIGUE O NADIE LA HA REPORTADO EN FIN ME GUSTARIA SABER MAS DESDE YA MUCHAS GRACIAS
Happened in Florida
April 03, 2020

In reply to by Jane

My mom was called by a man who said he was my son & needed money and not to call us. He knew my son's name and said to wire money to New Jersey because he was in jail. Thankfully, she called me. An elderly neighbor has been called on two occasions by a mail & weeks later by a female claiming to be his long lost grandkids. He never had kids. Obviously, they were aiming for money.
fivebellwoodgi…
December 21, 2020

In reply to by Happened in Florida

This happen to my Mother about two/three months ago. The person referred to my Mom as Grandma. The person referred to a name, my Mom is familiar with knowing. They knew info that could reasonably match to the individual. My Mother being so devastated and upset (she called a Son in law) and money was sent to New Jersey. It may never be retrieved!!!!!
TBNorris
April 03, 2020
When I received this type call I asked the caller What is your name?" He didn't know. I just laughed and hung up.
almost fooled
April 03, 2020
I was saved from a large financial loss, the same scam. I asked for the names of my daughters' six cats.
Heather
April 05, 2020

In reply to by almost fooled

LOL I will have to try that if I ever get contacted by anyone claiming to be related to me with a foreign accent.
E. LARIVIERE
April 03, 2020
I RECEIVED ONE OF THESE CALLS MONTHS AGO. FORTUNATELY, I CONTACTED MY DAUGHTER & SHE CONFIRMED THAT OUR GRANDSON WAS SAFE AT WORK. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR FAMILY BEFORE YOU GET SCAMMED.
Ron
April 03, 2020
About six months ago I received a phone call saying it was my grandson and he was being held in jail following an auto accident. He said he needed $6,000 cash to get out of jail in NJ, but I would get it back when his lawyers got him acquitted. I almost fell for it, but called my grandson on his cell phone to be sure it was true, When he told me he was at home with his family watching TV I knew it was a scam and didn't pay.
melissa
July 29, 2021

In reply to by Ron

My elderly mother just got this same phone call from someone claiming to be my nephew's lawyer, saying that he was in jail in New Jersey and needed $6500 to get out so he can be arraigned and that she shouldn't tell anyone. My mother went all the way down to the bank and got mad when they wouldn't give her money to send to her grandson, so she luckily called me and we figured out that it was a scam and my nephew was no where near New Jersey.
Mike444rr
April 03, 2020
I got a call like that yesterday and person said that they're my grandson and granddaughter stuck in Europe and need money get home i was laughing since i don't have any children and i said no im not sending anything that scam isn't going to work with me
berrybrook
April 03, 2020
That is so true scammers always find a way to act when there is a crisis and people are most vulnerable. I have that.
Grammy Marie
April 03, 2020
We receive this scam a couple of years ago but did not fall for it. We gave all our family a code word that only they would know in case this happens again.
cteaf
April 06, 2020
I’ve had two of these calls. Saying their my grandson in jail. I recognize my grandsons voice so I always tell them the can stay in jail.
Heather
April 05, 2020
Oh yes the scammers are very hard at work during this outbreak, they know all kinds of tricks just to get into your wallet. There are probably tons of COVID-19 scams in the works so please be careful.
Cappy
April 06, 2020
Helps to be a miserly old coot with no grandchildren, nieces or nephews.
DontAnswer
April 07, 2020
Do like I do. Make sure anyone you will answer to is recorded in your phone. And block all other numbers. I've done it for years and haven't missed an important call yet. Anyone who would call me has my email address. If someone emails asking me for my phone number, I call them to make sure it's a legitimate requeat.
Nosucker
May 26, 2020
My in-laws just received a call, claiming ( my daughter) was in jail for a car accident & wanted $16000. She sounded like my daughter, so my mother in law asked what was the name of our cat. They hung up.
Ginny
June 29, 2020
I got a call from someone who said “hi grandma”. As I have no grandchildren, I said he had the wrong number. Then he switched gears and laughed saying “no just joking, it’s your favorite nephew”. He really sounded like my nephew. He then said he had been arrested for having a small amount of pot in his car and then it wasn’t even his. I asked him where he was. He said in the precinct downtown. I live in New York City, and there is a Precinct in every neighborhood. So I asked him “where downtown?” And he said “you know, downtown”. Now was trying to get suspicious but played along. He said he needed me to send $800 by Western Union to cover his bail, and not to tell his Mim, my sister. I said “sure, just one thing, tell me your name”. He laughed and hung up!
Fool me once c…
August 19, 2020
This happen to my family today. Cause a whole bunch of headaches and lost time over this bs. Good thing my sister was able to catch on and realize it was a scam. They wanted $6,000 because my son was in a car accident in the Bronx with a broken nose and he hit a lady that was 7 months and she will be out the hospital tomorrow. Funny thing, my son is station in Germany in the army. If they give you this case #01K1481 and said they are in NJ court. It's all a scam.
RK
August 27, 2020

In reply to by Fool me once c…

This just happened to my parents today! Said my son was in car accident, a rental car, incidently he doesn't have a license right now, so I knew something was up, he said oldest grandson and of course my dad said oh " " so he of course gave away the name. Said he was in NY I also knew this wasn't true and they also used the lady that was 7 months pregnant in ICU. said my son was arrested and needed bail money. The guy on the phone apparently was his lawyer after speaking to my supposadly son at the beginning. My dad thought he sounded funny but the excuse was he broke his nose and cut his lip! Everyone warn your elderly parents. I will now post on facebook.
Jmd
December 10, 2020

In reply to by Fool me once c…

The same exact thing happened to me today except the call came through to my work number. Sounded like exactly and I mean exactly like my son. No money was transferred but it’s been a really long emotional day.
sadlydisgusted
January 08, 2021
This just happened to my dad. He was asked to wire 25k to get me out of jail for an auto accident I had with a pregnant woman. They went as far as telling him she was in critical condition and if she died I would be charged with vehicular manslaughter. They told him not to say anything to anyone since they could possibly try to expunge my record if it wasn't made into a big deal. They also told him credit wouldn't work and that cash was needed since they thought I was a flight risk. Since they wouldn't put "me" (originally it was a girl that sounded like me crying hysterically before passing the phone to a "sergeant at the jail") back on the phone, my dad thought I was actually kidnapped. He got off the phone with them terrified and reached out to his manager to ask about acquiring an advance from his 401k. At the last minute he tried to call me and my husband and when he got ahold of us realized he was being scammed in the worst way. They terrorized him. I've never heard my dad cry so hard. He could have had a heart attack. These people need to be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The number was from Jersey and so is my Dad.
Realgrammy
May 05, 2021
Received my second fake grandson call and once again the voice was quite similar. The locations that his fake trip and accident is said to happen was really ridiculous so I knew right off...plus his parents aren't people he would not have reached out to first..they have a great relationship. This time I did say, "have you no shame?" With my non-stop berating he finally hung up! I checked out the phone #..no one listed. Wish our government could find out how to stop this stuff.
Kate
July 29, 2021
Got my scam call today. Called me ‘Grandma’ and said his voice might sound off because he was in an accident and broke his nose. Told me he was in RI for a friend’s funeral and was arrested for texting while driving and causing an accident. He was gearing up to ask for money to pay a lawyer he’d found. I found his story unconvincing because my grandson is 16 and his father would never let him fly across country alone. Also, his story about the deceased friend was unconvincing since he said he’d met the friend while living in NC and my grandson had not lived in NC since he was an infant. It was interesting that he knew so many things about my grandson but he didn’t have them exactly right. I called my son anyway to share what had happened and he said my grandson was definitely in Oregon, right beside him. These scammers should be jailed.