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Lessons From The Grandparent Scam

“Grandma, it’s me, your grandson …”  

What started out as seemingly innocent words ended in abuse.

A stranger abroad, pretending to be Mrs. C’s 25-year-old grandson, Brad, claimed to have gotten into legal trouble during a spontaneous trip to Mexico with friends. The scammer then begged Mrs. C not to alert his “parents”, as police had found a “little bit of marijuana” in his possession. He said that he needed $4200 for bail money, and put Mrs. C on the phone with a “police officer”, who directed Mrs. C to send an untraceable Money Gram to the scammers from the supermarket around the corner from her house. Mrs. C loved her grandson and ignored a few red flags in light of the urgency of the situation.

Like many other victims, Mrs. C was deeply ashamed of having fallen for what seemed, in hindsight, to be an obvious scam. The reality is that Mrs. C is far from being alone. Financial crimes are the most commonly-reported form of elder abuse, and scammers use increasingly sophisticated methods to fool even the most intelligent victims. 

Consequences of Elder Scams and Financial Abuse

In 2010, a MetLife study found that the annual financial loss by victims of elder financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion, a 12 percent increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008. These financial crimes affect more than a senior’s bank account. “As a physician, I also worry about the impact on the older adult’s health and well-being after an incident of financial fraud,” says Dr. Laura Mosqueda, UC Irvine geriatrician and co-director of the National Center on Elder Abuse. “Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression or heart disease can become even worse after an older adult is a victim of financial fraud. Unfortunately, they can lose confidence and become more isolated as well. It’s important that the victims know they are not alone.”

Raising Awareness and Prevention

Our best bet today is to focus our efforts on raising awareness and on prevention.

The Better Business Bureau, FBI, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have all published press releases, warnings, and resources regarding the devastating Grandparent Scam. Despite these efforts, these scams are not yet common knowledge. The Ageless Alliance is up to the task of spreading awareness of these hidden crimes. Learn tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones by going to the Ageless Alliance Action Kit. Pay special attention to the “Red Flags of Elder Abuse” and the “Protect Yourself” handouts in multiple languages. Share this blog article with others and help spread the word.

If you or someone you know is victimized by abuse, don’t keep it secret out of embarrassment or feelings of shame. Know that you are not alone! It is not right that someone’s hard-earned life savings, pension, social security or other assets are stolen from them. Help raise awareness and protect others by reporting abuse to authorities. For more info on reporting abuse go to the Ageless Alliance Get Support page.

Are you aware of other financial scams perpetrated against elders? What tips can you suggest to help keep elders safe from scams? Reply to this post with your thoughts.

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Special Thanks To

Ageless Alliance, Inc. is a registered U.S. 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit (EIN/Tax ID: 47-2269055). Our charity is partially funded by the National  Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), a federally funded grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living (ACL). Ageless Alliance is a proud partner of the nation's first Elder Abuse Forensic Center (EAFC) housed in Orange County, California.