A red flag went up when Pauline Wall heard her grandson refer to her as grandma instead of Grammy. The Corona del Mar resident’s grandson called from San Diego where he went to college, because he was in trouble and needed money. The impostor grandson who claimed to be in jail for drunk driving needed the $3000 for an attorney and begged her not to tell his parents. “I couldn’t imagine him being drunk but I was so upset it could have been him,” explained Polly. “I had just read about the grandparent scam in the paper which made me suspicious so I decided to ask him his mother’s name, which he got right but it was when I asked his sister’s name that he hung up”, said Polly.
Barbara Devito wasn’t so lucky. Her 19 year old grandson, Matthew called saying all the right things, according to Barbara, “he always starts talking by saying, ‘hi grandma it’s Matthew,’ and I always say, ‘I know it’s you Matthew’.”
The grandparent scam has resurfaced with a variety of scenarios but in the end the caller posing as an adult grandchild pretends to be in trouble in order to extort money.
In Barbara’s case, the impostor grandson calling from jail, said that he got in a car accident, as a result of drinking and had to pay an attorney $2000 for bail and to get the DUI removed from his record. She sent the money right away and then she received another call from her grandson and the attorney requesting another $4000 to compensate the alleged victims he supposedly hit, for their hospital bills. The story was embellished adding that the injured parties of the accident were visiting from out of the country, which justified sending funds to Lebanon. The grandson was adamant all along that his mom not be told. The scammer had an answer to everything and even provided phone numbers and addresses for everyone involved.
When Barbara went to wire the money out of the country the second time the money transfer service tried to discourage her, warning her about scams. She didn’t want to believe them because she was so sure that she was doing the right thing telling herself, “It was Matthew”.
Once she had completed the transaction, she waited as instructed for Matthew’s call and when he didn’t call she became worried. When she did get a hold of Mathew his first words were, “oh my god”, and then he assured her that if ever he did get in trouble she had his permission to call his mom. Her family was shocked and couldn’t believe that she didn’t know about the scam. They all said she should have asked questions to test the caller. Her response, “it was Matthew.”
Although Pauline nipped the grandparent scam in the bud, she continues to receive daily calls from a guy with an accent instructing her to deposit $600 on a green dot card in exchange for a million dollars that she supposedly won as a Walmart customer. When she told him that she didn’t shop at Walmart he revised the script to now be Target.
Her son implied that she wouldn’t have the problem of the callbacks if she hadn’t talked to him in the first place.
Polly has done everything imaginable to put an end to the calls, she tried caller ID but the screen was hard to see, she enrolled in the do not call, contacted the phone company, the police, the DA’s office all with no luck. She was told that because the calls are out of the US, there is nothing that can be done. “It’s discouraging to answer the phone,” said Polly. Sometimes I go a couple of days without answering just to give myself a break and then my friends get worried about me or think that I don’t want to talk to them.” Pressing the # over and over hasn’t deterred the caller so maybe it’s time for the bullhorn.
Seniors are singled out, because the criminals think they have more money, and are also vulnerable.
Susan Hoffman is the author of A Precious Bond and the director of AFGGC, which produced A Precious Bond, the first documentary film about unreasonably denied grandparent visitation. Visit apreciousbond.com for more information or to order the film or book.
Editor’s Note: Grandparents are especially vulnerable because they love and would trust a call from their grandson. To read more about possible scams aimed at grandparents