Scamming grandparents out of their life savings

By Robert E. Holtfreter, Ph.D., CFE, CICA
robert-holtfreter-80x80.jpg   Taking Back the ID

JulyAug-senior-scamWinston Franklin, 83, who lives in Washington state, recently received a call from his grandson, Ryan, who said he was in jail and needed $4,300 for bail. Ryan, who seemed very upset, said he had been drinking, drove to Georgia to attend a wedding and hit a pedestrian on the way. Ryan pleaded with his grandfather not to tell his parents. Ryan's grandfather immediately wired the money. 

Shortly after, Winston received another telephone call from someone claiming to be Ryan's attorney who demanded thousands of dollars for fees to represent Ryan. Winston then received a third call from an individual asking Winston to pay $6,000 for medical bills to repair the broken leg of the woman Ryan purportedly hit. 

Winston received yet another telephone call demanding him to pay $500,000 for a settlement with the same woman. The caller claimed the injured woman suffered a miscarriage and lost her two unborn twins shortly after the accident. When Winston questioned the large amount, the caller said he would settle for $77,500.

Of course, Winston was the victim of a scam. He eventually wired the fraudster a total of $89,000 from his savings account. This true case (only the victim's name has been changed) was part of an article, "Scammers are stealing from elderly by posing as grandkids in trouble," by Jennifer Sullivan in the April 18 Seattle Times. "I felt concerned about my grandson," said Winston. "I wanted to do the right thing to get him released and home as soon as possible."

Allison Stice, a reporter for the Beaufort Gazette, reported a similar case. In her April 24 article, "Grandparents' scam strikes locally," she wrote that an 80-year-old woman received a telephone call from an individual claiming to be her grandson. He said he needed $2,900 to "set things right" after getting into an automobile accident with a diplomat in Atlanta. The grandmother quickly wired the money to an address in Panama City, Panama. 

The fraudster, posing as an actual Atlanta lawyer, called the grandmother the next morning and asked for more money. The grandmother got suspicious and hung up. She found the number of the lawyer and called. The real lawyer said he didn't know her grandson. She now knew she had been conned. 


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By Anonymous
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By Sonal
By Elaine_48
Good article. Also, the use of a family password could be useful in deterring scammers. I suspect a scammer might hang up if asked for the family password.