Fraud Targeting Elderly

The Auburn Police Department would like to increase public awareness of a scam, commonly referred to as the “Grandchild Scam” or “Emergency Scam”, which seem, for the most part, to target elderly victims.

The scam works like this: An unknown person calls a victim and either pretends to be the victim’s grandchild or pretends to be a local authority or public defender. The typical claim is that the grandchild has been arrested or was involved in an accident, and now needs money to either be bailed out or pay for medical bills. They claim the grandchild will be detained until payment is made. The scammer, pretending to be the grandchild, explains how embarrassed they are and ask the grandparent not to tell their parents or anybody else. Or, if a representative for the grandchild is calling, they may advise the grandchild is unable to talk, as he or she is in a holding cell or in surgery. They also tell the victim to pay via wire transfer. The victim then goes to a local wire transfer business and wires the money.

Scammers have the ability to convince victims for a number of reasons. Generally, they call a victim and are vague. They wait for the victim to give them information first. They may call and say “Hi Grandma, it’s your favorite grandson”, instead of actually revealing their name. When the victim responds with, “Is this Jimmy?”, the scammer confirms it is, and the story continues. If the victim questions why their voice does not sound like the person they are impersonating, the scammer will make an excuse such as claiming the phone line has a bad connection. Another method involves the use of social media. A scammer will look on a person’s social media account, such as Facebook, and use the information available to them. Some of the information includes family member names and recent vacation destinations, or recent “check-ins”- an application on Facebook alerting anybody who has access to the user’s profile as to where the user is currently located. Scammers mention the family member’s names to further verify their identity. Scammers can use the vacation information to make their story seem even more plausible – the grandchild has been arrested in Florida. If the victim knows the grandchild is presently in Florida on vacation, they are more likely to believe the scammer’s story.

As a general rule, never send anybody money through a wiring service, unless you personally know the individual and are certain it is that individual. Also, always confirm the caller’s story. Ask the caller which police station or hospital (floor and room number as well) their grandchild is located at. Then, look up the phone numbers to the police station or hospital independently and call and confirm this information. Finally, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed if you have fallen victim to this scam or any other scam. Always report the incident to the police, whether you have sent any money or not. This information may help prevent future citizens from falling victim to a scam like this.

Download Media Release – Fraud Targeting Elderly