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The Grandparent Scam and How to Prevent it

The Grandparent Scam and How to Prevent It

Scams that intentionally seek out and victimize seniors continue to be a nationwide problem. The elderly have long been targeted due to an assumed lack of knowledge about technology and ample access to financial resources. Scammers also consider the elderly to be less likely to ask for help or prosecute, making it a lower risk crime.

There are two types of scams that target the elderly:

Grandparent Scams:

In “grandparent scams,” individuals will receive a call from a scammer pretending to be the victim’s grandchild. The grandchild requests immediate assistance due to some sort of incident such as being put in jail or having a flight canceled. Their plea usually includes a request to not tell anyone (including parents) about their problem. The scam works well because it plays on the victim’s emotions by making them feel distressed about their relatives. The twist during this particular time of year is that the grandchild wants to be “home for the holidays.”

An elderly woman in her early 80s fell victim to one variation of the grandparent scam. In this case, scammers convinced her that a relative was arrested and was in dire need of help. She was prompted to put $12,000 on iTunes gift cards and then read the cards’ serial numbers over the phone to the scammers.

Utility Scams:

Scammers will often target the elderly with phone calls claiming that they are behind on payments and threaten to turn off power, heat or water. The fear that this instills in victims often causes them to hand over money quickly to avoid being left in the cold/heat or without water.

Follow these prevention tips to help avoid falling victim to this terrible con.

  • If a grandchild calls asking for assistance, ask them a wide array of questions including those that would be hard for the imposter to answer correctly.
  • Slow the process down. Think twice before saying yes to a money transfer based on one call.
  • Obtain as much information as you can, hang up and attempt to contact your relatives to confirm they are OK.

With the number of scams likely to increase each year, especially during the holiday season, it’s important to be extra vigilant in protecting your personal information and your finances. There is a multitude of free resources offered by organizations like the Identity Theft Resource Center to assist you. Another option is to work with a company that provides comprehensive identity protection that includes educational resources, online data protection, credit and identity theft monitoring alerts for proactive protection against fraudulent use of personal information. Additionally, these companies can provide full-service resolution should you become a victim.

Becoming a victim of a scam at any time of the year is an awful experience. However, having to deal with the repercussions of a scam during the holidays is even harder. The extra layer of hectic schedules and financial burdens can make this a nightmarish experience at a time of year that should be enjoyed with friends and family. However, being armed with the above information and resources should help protect consumers against scams and increase the odds of a wonderful holiday season.

For more information about how Identity Theft Protection can help keep your personal data safe, visit

Better Business Bureau. (2017, February 27). BBB Tip: Fake Check Scams. Retrieved from
Brenoff, A. (2016, December 9). Holiday Scams That Target The Elderly Just Came Roaring Back. Retrieved from

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