Grandparents often have a hard time saying no to their grandchildren, which is something scam artists know all too well.
Scammers who gain access to consumers' personal information – by mining social media or purchasing data from cyber thieves – can create storylines to prey on the fears of grandparents. The scammers call and impersonate a grandchild – or another close relative – in a crisis situation, asking for immediate financial assistance. Sometimes these callers “spoof” the caller ID to make an incoming call appear to be coming from a trusted source.
Often the imposter claims to have been in an accident or arrested. The scammer may ask the grandparent “please don’t let mom and dad know,” and may hand the phone over to someone posing as a lawyer seeking immediate payment.
Unfortunately, bad actors can now use artificial intelligence technology “to mimic voices, convincing people, often the elderly, that their loved ones are in distress,” according to a recent Washington Post article.
The article reports that scammers can replicate a voice from just a short audio sample, then use AI tools to hold a conversation in that voice, which “speaks” whatever the imposter types.
Several variations of the grandparent scam have surfaced over the years. A U.S. Postal Inspection Service webpage about grandparent scams includes videos of victims sharing their stories to help raise awareness of this criminal tactic.
Be Vigilant About Scam Calls
Always use caution if you are being pressured for information or to send money quickly. Scammers often try to bully victims into transferring money through a mobile payment app, by wiring money, or by purchasing gift cards or money orders. Some may even request to meet to receive money in person. If you get a call like this, hang up and report it immediately to local law enforcement.
To ease your mind, you can also call or text your family members directly to make sure they’re not in trouble.
More Tips to Help You Avoid Being Scammed
One of the best deterrents against scam artists is awareness. Check out FCC consumer guides on spoofed caller ID and illegal robocalls, with additional tips and web resources for call-blocking apps and services.
You can also check out consumer awareness articles about scams targeting older Americans on the Better Business Bureau website, or find out about scams near where you live using the AARP Fraud Watch Network Scam-Tracking Map.
File a Complaint
You can file complaints with the FCC about unwanted calls and spoofing. You can also find information on imposter scams and file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Please share this information with family and friends.