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Previously, I read an article warning about what is called the “Grandparent Scam.”  It is a scam I have been addressing for some time in my presentations.

According to the FBI, it works like this: 

You’re a grandparent, and you get a phone call or an e-mail from someone who identifies himself as your grandson. “I’ve been arrested in another country,” he says, “and need money wired quickly to pay my bail. And, oh by the way, don’t tell my mom or dad because they’ll only get upset!”

This may sound like a scam which would be easy to identify. In reality, this scam is effective likely because, as this author stated, “it plays on the [grandparent’s] heart and desire to help.”  It is also effective because the scammer may have specific information about a grandchild.  For example, a grandchild may post on Facebook about a trip.  This one piece of specific information may be all that is necessary to sound legitimate when the scammer claims he/she is your grandchild, but is now stranded and in need of help.

Some grandparents may even decide it is worth the risk of a few hundred dollars just to be sure they are not rejecting an actual grandchild.  But the risk is much greater than a few hundred dollars. Once the first payment has been made, the scammers relentlessly seek additional payments. There have even been examples of victims taking their own lives to get away from the constant hounding.

If you are contacted about sending money, the FBI suggests the following:

  • Resist the pressure to act immediately.
  • Contact other family to confirm if the call is legitimate.
  • Do not wire money based on a phone or e-mail request.  Once sent, that money is forever gone.

Perhaps the greatest defense against scams is knowledge.  Arm yourself by learning how these scams work and how you can protect yourself.  Come to a free presentation to learn you can protect your estate.