Senior Scams: Help, Grandma, I Need Money Now!

Companion Home Care, Affordable Home Care, Elder Care in Minnesota, Elderly Home Care Service, In Home Senior Care Providers, home care services for seniors, at home caregiversForeign lotteries, investment fraud, reverse mortgages, predatory sales practices, ponzi schemes, counterfeit check, and money order schemes . . . The word is out about the many different ways elderly folks living at home can get scammed.  Most people now know never to give out information over the phone about bank accounts or social security numbers.  However, there is a specific scam involving Minnesota grandparents that exploits the love and generosity grandparents have toward their grandchildren.  It goes something like this:

“Hi, Grams, do you know who this is?”  When Grandma identifies a name, the con artist then uses that name to pretend to be a grandchild.  Using the grandchild’s identity, they are able to fraudulently obtain money.  The scammer describes some sort of urgent trouble he or she is in, and makes a plea for the grandparent to urgently wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram to pay for medical treatment, an auto repair, a ticket home, etc.  Most often the “grandchild” is in a foreign country and claims to be embarrassed to ask for the money and dissuades the grandparent from contacting the grandchild’s parents or friends due to the urgency of the situation.

Fraudsters often ask for secrecy because they know if the grandparent contacts another family member, the scam will be brought to light.  Some grandparents are more than willing to come to the aid of grandchildren in need and don’t hesitate to do what is asked of them by the so-called “grandchild.”  These scams are successful enough that con artists are continuing in their attempts to fraud others.

By the time the money is transferred and the scam is uncovered, it is usually too late for the grandparent to retrieve the money. The money is virtually untraceable and law enforcement agencies have little success in recovering wired funds.

What to Watch Out For:

1.  A phone call claiming to be about or from a grandchild or other family member in distress,

2.   An urgent need for money to be secretly wire transferred, often to a foreign county.


What to Do If You Think You are Receiving One of These Calls:


1.  Verify that it is your grandchild by contacting his or her parents or asking a question only the real grandchild would know the answer to.

2.  Resist pressure to send money quickly and secretly.

3.  Refuse to send money through wire transfer or overnight delivery.

4.  Dial *57 after you hang up so the caller’s phone number will be forwarded and recorded at the phone company’s caller identification center.

5.  Contact your local police to file a complaint.


Why do people fall for these scams?  People tend to want to believe.  They give callers the benefit of the doubt.  Minnesota is targeted specifically because of the “Minnesota Nice Syndrome.”  Minnesotans would sometimes rather comply than make a fuss or confrontation.  The scam artists are experts and professionals, very good at what they do. They are trained specifically on what to say to people to “suck them in” and have specific responses for any objections they may get.  Most people think this cannot happen to them.  Intelligent people and common ordinary folks are falling for these scams.  The victims are so ashamed afterwards that they are too embarrassed to admit it happened to them and therefore don’t report it.

In the care for older people, it’s important to prepare them for the dangers that lurk behind phone calls and emails.  To help you in taking care of elderly parents, be sure to also read our blogs on digital scams and other scams.

Listed below are several resources available to obtain information on how to prevent fraud or learn what to do if you or a loved one have fallen victim to some type of fraud:

Federal Trade Commission

Consumer Response Center

600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20580

Toll-free helpline 1-877-382-4357

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Minneapolis Office

111 Washington Avenue South, Ste 1100

Minneapolis, MN 55401


Phone Busters (for calls from Canada)

Box 686

North Bay, Ontario P1B 8J8


1-888-654-9426 (fax)

Minnesota Fraud Enforcement Partnership


Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson

1400 Bremer Tower

445 Minnesota Street

St. Paul, MN 55101

651-296-3353 or 1-800-657-3787

TTY: 651-297-7206 or 1-800-366-4812

Julie Ellingson, LSW

July 13, 2012


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