Watch Out for The Grandparent Scam

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties DC AB15253

There is a wonderful site,, that I want to share with the Active Rain community.  It has great information for all of us who work with clients of a certain age or are still lucky enough to have parents. 

One of the articles that I read dealt with grandparent scams. It told the story of a grandfather who called his son to say that they had just learned that their grand daughter -the son's daughter- was in a Mexican Jail and needed $1800 in bail.  The granddaughter was put on the line for a brief period (just long  enough to not be identified, but get the false message across) to tell her grandfather she was in jail and needed bail money.   The grandparents sent the money by Western Union and then called their son to tell him the news.  I wanted to make sure this was not some kind of scary urban myth - but it is a real scam.


Sure enough - even the US State Department addresses grandparent scams on its website.  It explains that in these types of scams, the perpetrator often calls a grandparent or other relative pretending to be his/her grandchild/niece/nephew, etc. The caller sounds upset and typically states there are only a few moments to talk. Callers may say that they have a cold if you don't quite recognize their voice, or cue-in on feedback from the call to sound even more convincing (scam victims often report being sure they were talking to their actual relative, but it's a clever trick!). Their story generally follows a familiar line: they were traveling in another country with a friend, and after a car accident or legal infraction, they are in jail and need bail money wired to a Western Union account as soon as possible for their quick release.


Sums can vary from several hundred to several thousand dollars, sometimes over the course of two or three calls. In some instances, a second scammer calls back later pretending to be a law enforcement official or attorney, to confirm the story or ask for additional money. They may even claim to be employees of a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas!


The State Department advises that should you be targeted in this type of scam, there are actions you can take to protect yourself. Although the supposed grandchild may plead with you not to tell his/her family, you should immediately reach out to parents or other relatives to verify the information you receive. In the vast majority of cases, the real relative is safely where (s)he should be - at work, school or home.


Another way to check on the story is to look at the country code of the incoming call. A lot of these calls originate in Canada with a 914 area code!

Seniors make up 12% of the population, but 35% of fraud victims.  Talk to your parents!





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Carol Culkin
Reece & Nichols - Leawood, KS
Overland Park

It's a crying shame! I had an aunt who was scammed by somebody posing to be from the local utility company and gained access to her home. She was very fortunate that they took a safe and fled while she was down in the basement running water for them while they supposedly checked her water pressure upstairs. She was so embarrassed that she never talked about it. Thanks for creating awareness.

Jun 16, 2013 02:53 PM #6
Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI
HomeSmart Realty West & Geneva Financial, Llc. - Carlsbad, CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance
Lise, being in Florida, you can guess that if there is a scam out there, it's live and well in Florida, particularly with the elderly based here. The only way to eliminate these scammers is to toughen the laws and force our law enforcement organizations to put these crimes at the top of their list. Further, our Federal Government needs to work directly with their foreign counterparts to secure cooperation in wiping out these criminals. If no cooperation, then no foreign aid!
Jun 16, 2013 08:11 PM #7
Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Associate Broker
iXL Real Estate-Wiregrasss\ - Enterprise, AL
email: / cell: 334-494-7846

A friend's elderly father was hit with the "pave your drive-way cheap with left over materials from State job" scam. Fortunately, the family got wind of it and the Sheriff told the people to take the money they had and split.

Jun 17, 2013 05:29 AM #8
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

I've gotten these types of emails, but never a phone call. That's just horrible. 

Jun 17, 2013 05:33 AM #9
Doug Kaller
Academy Mortgage, Reno, NV - Reno, NV

Hi Lise,

There is another version of this scam. I received the below email from 2 different people The cities were different but the rest of the email was the same. "Just writing to let you know our trip to Spain Madrid has been a mess. I was having a great time until last night when we got mugged and lost all my cash, credit card and cell phone It has been a scary experience, I was hit at the back of my neck with a club. Anyway.I'm still alive and that's whats important. I'm financially strapped right now and need your help. I need you to loan me some $$, I'll refund it to you as soon as i arrive home.Please let me know what you can do."


Jun 17, 2013 05:38 AM #10
Rob Arnold
Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. - Altamonte Springs, FL
Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F

Amazing all the scams out there.  Western Union offices actually have big signs above the cashier's desk warning of specific scams to watch out for.  I don't know if this is one of them. 

Jun 17, 2013 05:53 AM #11
Michael J. O'Connor
Diamond Ridge Realty - Corona, CA
Eastvale - 951-847-4883

I get the emails all the time and I've heard about the phone calls.  It really takes the scam to another level and I think it's really disgusting.

Jun 17, 2013 05:53 AM #12
Robert Hicks
United Country River City Realty - Savannah, TN

Thanks Lise--Great info here. Thanks for taking time to share. I have not had the call but like #10 above,, get those emails pretty regular..

Jun 17, 2013 05:56 AM #13
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

Elderly are an easy target. There should be a way to confirm with their children if the grandchild is actually abroad. I wonder how they get the voices to sound so convincingly familiar.

Jun 17, 2013 06:08 AM #14
Nina Hollander
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

This is not a new scam, unfortunately and not geared only towards the elderly. I've actually gotten emails with these types of message as if they came from clients of mine (who I know full well are in Charlotte at the time). But no question about it, we all need to be aware and vigilant.

Jun 17, 2013 06:44 AM #15
Theresa Akin

My dad received a phone call once about a bank scam. He just happened to live across the street from a retired police chief whose son was a detective in vice. Dad went along with it straight to the bank. Unbeknownst to the scammers vice was working the window and they told him because of the withdrawal being larger that he would have to go inside. My dad being the man he was (he has since passed) laughed. He was on TV and told everyone he wasn't born yesterday. Miss that man and missed not being able to call him this passed weekend. He knew the voice of everyone of his grandkids no matter how far away they lived. A great safety tip is to always let everyone know your where abouts. If you're going on vacation just call and let them know in casual conversation.

Jun 17, 2013 06:57 AM #16
Monique Ting
INET Realty Honolulu, HI - Honolulu, HI
Your agent under the sun

I have received the emails but not the phone calls. The crooks get the information from Facebook and other social networking sites. AARP has been warning it's members about the so called "grandparents scam". It is important to let everyone and especially seniors not to send any money by Western Union to a foreign agency.

Thank you for the reminder! 

Jun 17, 2013 07:21 AM #17
Tyler Soulliere
Windsor Realtor - Windsor, ON

I`ve never heard of this. How could people not just try and call them on their home phone or cell phone; the alleged victims| Crazy what people will believe these days.

Jun 17, 2013 07:22 AM #18
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

It's not just grandparents who are targetted. A Realtor friend of mine said he got a call from an elderly client who was wisely calling to see if he was really in trouble. She'd gotten a call saying he was in trouble and needed a few thousand dollars immediately. She said she almost sent it, then thought she should call his wife to verify.

Thank goodness she did! 

Jun 17, 2013 08:00 AM #19
Bob Miller
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team
Hi Lise thanks for passing this on. Sadly my Mom fell for one of these scams.
Jun 17, 2013 09:12 AM #20
Ric Mills
Keller Williams Southern Az - Tucson, AZ
Integrity, Honesty, and Vast Real Estate Knowledge

Wow, trust me, they are out there.  The criminal mind never stops.

Jun 17, 2013 09:17 AM #21
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Scammers can get any area code but always confirm a disaster or catastrophe before sending any money or best yet, don't respond at all.

Jun 17, 2013 09:28 AM #22
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

That's one I haven't heard of, but now I'll be aware of it.  There's so many scams out there.....!!

Jun 17, 2013 11:36 AM #23
Mark Delgado
houses for rent, Solano County & Glen Cove - Benicia, CA
Benicia and Vallejo, Property Management, rental h
Imagine if these criminal minds were instead devoted to something constructive. As clever as they are they could probably better humanity by applying their talents differently.
Jun 17, 2013 10:38 PM #24
Elva Branson-Lee
Solid Source Realty GA - Atlanta, GA
CDPE - Atlanta Real Estate & Short Sale Agent

Scammers are conscienceless and will bilk who they can. I can see how grandparents could be particularly susceptible. I'm dopey about my grandsons. We all have to be careful, every day.

Jun 19, 2013 04:40 AM #25
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Lise Howe

Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC
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