BBB Monday Media Minute Grandma/Grandpa Scams are making the rounds again

By Lane Montz President, CEO Better Business Bureau

        Did you ever stop to think that scams are like weeds – seasonal, yet permanent? Like the thistle I keep digging out of my flower beds, they come and go – seemingly killed off, only to reappear somewhere else.
        This is why the Nigerian prince who needs some of your money to get his $140 million inheritance is still emailing us. And why the fake Publisher’s Clearinghouse scam is still around (and, yes, someone in our area lost $41,000 to this just a few weeks ago). It makes honest citizens sick to hear these stories.
        First, of course, the scammers create an emotional hook, in this case a cry for help from a grandkid in trouble. A common story is they were arrested somewhere far away while on vacation or spring break – “Grandma, I’m in trouble and need your help. I got arrested in Mexico and need $2,500 bail money to get out. Please don’t tell Mom and Dad.”
        Another one is they got sick with Covid out of the country – “Grandpa, can you help me real fast? My friends and I went to ____ and one of them ended up giving me COVID. I’m fine and getting better, but I need some money to pay a few medical bills until I get back to the U.S. I know you can help me, but please don’t tell Mom and Dad; they will be really worried, and I don’t want to tell them ‘till I get back. Can you send me $ 2,500 by Venmo, Zelle or Western Union?”
        The scammers have become quite insidious. They check out public postings on seniors’ social media accounts, looking for pictures (and eventually names) of grandkids at birthday parties and other family gatherings, and then reference those special times to build credibility in their texts, like this: “Grandma, I know you can help me. Remember when we had that birthday party last year? My brother Billy and my sister Susy were there, and you made us that delicious cake? And then we all played badminton in the backyard? I remember how nice you were, and I really hope you can send me that money….!” That’s pretty sneaky - and pretty effective.
        Right now, BBB is seeing a resurgence of Grandma/Grandpa scams in our area. We’ve taken over 15 calls in the last week from watchful seasoned citizens warning us these texts are making the rounds again, with a slight twist – in- person courier pickup, supposedly (not!) from the courts. Yes, that’s correct: people that bite on the scam are told to give cash to a real, live courier from the local courts who will pick it up and send it to the beleaguered grandchild. Sadly, one local lady lost over $6,100 this way. Bold, very bold. But maybe a weakness, too, because unlike wiring money far away, it might be possible for the police to set up a sting before the “courier” arrives.
        Being educated about the latest tactics is the best way for our citizens to protect themselves. Forewarned is definitely forearmed. Although we commonly call these grandma scams, they happen to grandpas, too – even to aunts and uncles.
        If you receive a text (or call – AI is a real thing now) which appears to be from a family member in trouble, with a story about an urgent need for money, stop. Get the details and then call other family members to verify the child is really traveling. Do not give out any personal information (like bank account numbers) or send any money until you have done your homework. Consider calling the BBB or police right away. If you have older family members, discuss this racket with them. Emphasize to them; these callers are very convincing. Before you take any action on a phone call, verify the story with family.
        For more information, visit


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