The phone rings and you answer it. “Grandma? It’s your granddaughter, Cindy.” Delighted that your teenaged granddaughter who lives out of state is calling, you’re happy to hear from her. “Hello, Cindy. How nice to hear from you.”
Cindy’s voice takes on a somber tone. “Grandma, I’m in trouble. I went on a school trip in the Caribbean with my friends. We were goofing around and I had too much too drink. I got arrested for being drunk in public and now the court says I have to pay a fine of $1000 or they won’t let me out of jail.” You’re dismayed your sweet little granddaughter was arrested – and for public intoxication! You wonder why she is calling you. “Well, dear I think you need to talk to your mother and father about this. They’ll know what to do.” “No Grandma! I can’t tell them about this. Mom and Dad will kill me, and they’ll never let me go anywhere again. I was hoping maybe you could wire me the money. You mustn’t tell anyone – not Mom, Dad and not Grandpa Mark either! I was hoping it would be our little secret; and I promise; I’ll pay you back every dime. I’ve got a job at McDonalds, so I can pay you back.” Poor little Cindy sounds so desperate, and what kid hasn’t gotten into a little trouble? Besides, you can’t stand to think of your precious granddaughter stuck in some jail. “Well, I don’t know, dear; I’ve never kept anything from your Grandpa; and that’s a lot of money.” “Pleeeease Grandma? It’s really dirty here and the food has bugs in it.” You sigh. “Okay Cindy, I don’t like it, but I’ll do it. What do I have to do?”
Then Cindy gives you very detailed directions on how to wire the $1000 to the court. “Remember Grandma,” she warns, “you can’t tell anyone about this!” With a heavy heart you follow the directions and wire the money to an unknown location in the Caribbean. Congratulations! You’ve probably just been the victim of one of the latest scams being used against the elderly. You see, slim-ball crooks have learned that the elderly are easily fooled by a young voice claiming to be the grandchild of the senior citizen…especially when those grandkids live out of state and, most likely, aren’t seen too often in person. But how do the crooks know whether or not a senior has grandchildren? We’re giving the information to the bad guys ourselves via the internet. Many of the larger social networking sites are perfect hunting grounds where criminals can find pictures or search profiles of grandchildren so they know the child’s age and sex.
Phone numbers are easily accessible as well. Have you ever done a Zabasearch of yourself at Zabasearch.com? Do like genealogy? What information do you enter into those sites to round out your family tree? It’s disturbing to find what kind of information is available about you via the internet to everyone in the world. The key to this scam is the secrecy element. The ‘child’ in trouble begs their ‘grandparent’ to not contact their parents or anyone in the family. Why? If the grandmother in this scenario contacted Cindy’s parents and said, “I understand Cindy is on a school trip in the Carribbean.” The whole scam would fall apart because the mother would probably say something like, “What are you talking about? Cindy is sitting in the family room playing video games on the TV.” Worse yet, our elderly citizens who DO fall victim of this and other scams often don’t come forward because they’re embarrassed they got swindled. Knowledge is power. Talk to the seniors you know. Tell them this story. Be sure they understand that the criminal element has figured out that senior citizens are excellent targets for all kinds of scams – and this is just one of them. Until next time; KMA367