The Betrayal of the ‘Grandparent Scam’

When a loved one calls you in distress, fear for their safety overrides any thoughts of suspicion. In that moment, protecting your loved one becomes your sole focus, often leading to immediate and impulsive action. You may not take the time to stop and think, hmm this doesn't sound like their voice. Unfortunately, it's precisely this vulnerability that scammers exploit in a scam. They prey on the natural instinct to safeguard family, manipulating emotions to extract money or personal information. And their main target? Grandparents.

Bill, a 78-year-old-grandfather was home watching tv when his phone rang. It was his granddaughter. She was crying and claiming she was hurt in a car accident and couldn’t cover the balance of her medical cost. Bill is struck with fear and starts asking questions. The doctor is put on the phone to explain how he can wire the money. Bill sends the money, and the next day when he calls her to check on her health, she seems perfectly fine. But the money was gone. 

With in the last year, 10 billion individuals just with in the U.S have been a victim of online scams and digital fraud. While every age demographic is targeted, seniors were found to be the most frequently deceived. Thousands in which are being targeted by what’s now known as the ‘Grandparent Scam’.


It usually starts with a call, depicting a sense of urgency or fear. It’s their grandchild claiming that they are in trouble. Scammers use the tactic of exploiting the desire to protect family members to trick the unsuspecting into sending money or personal information. Believing that a family member is in distress, is enough to make any individual think irrationally.  But paired with the fact that older generations may not be as aware of technology and cybercrime as the younger generations, make them the most favorable target.

Making it Beliveable

  • Like many scams, these criminals are experts at impersonating people that they have never even met. They will research using social media and use personal details to make the call more believable. 
  • Doesn’t sound like their grandchild? The impersonator may use excuses such as uncontrolled sobbing, accident injuries, (ex. a broken nose) to explain why they don’t sound themselves. 
  • Sometimes these callers will “spoof” the caller ID to make the call appear as if it is coming from the suspected source. 
  • If suspicion starts to arise, the call is passed over to a third party. This is usually someone “of authority” like a police officer, lawyer, or doctor. 

The Warning Signs

  • Pressure to act quickly. The call will use a sense of urgency or fear to maintain control over the situation. Scammers do not want to give you the time to verify the situation or consult with outside parties.
  • They beg you not to tell anyone. Sometimes scammers will get you not to tell other family members using excuses such as “I don’t want to worry them”. Isolating a victim makes them more vulnerable and less likely to avoid interference from those who might recognize the scam. 
  • Request for money:  The caller asks for money to be sent via wire transfer, gift cards, or cryptocurrency, or even in person. These methods are difficult to recover and trace. 
  • Lack of personal information: You may start asking questions about the scenario and they will change the subject with statements such as “I’m scared” or “I’m hurt”.  Scammers may avoid providing too many details about the situation or personal information. As they want to appear trustworthy, avoiding specific details that can be verified or questioned reduces the risk of suspicion. 
  • Changes in behavior or story. Scammers often rely on scripts or rehearsed stories to manipulate their victims. However, these scripts may not always align with the details known by the victim about their grandchild or the situation being described. (Ex. your “grandchild” claims they were out of state when you know they were unable to be out of state at that given time.)

Talk to Your Family About Scam Calls

It is extremely important to stay up to date with new cybersecurity trends, and when it comes to the older members of our family, we want to make sure that they are doing the same. They are the primary target in most scams due to their lack of awareness. Talk to your loved ones about scam calls.

  • Create a code: Establish a secret code word or phrase with your family members that can be used to verify their identity over the phone. Scammers are less likely to know this code, helping to authenticate legitimate calls from family members.
  • Verify the caller’s identity: Ask questions only your family member would know, such as details about past events or shared memories. Be cautious if the caller struggles to provide specific answers or tries to avoid your questions.
  • Do not give them any information: Never provide personal or financial information over the phone, especially if you are unsure of the caller’s identity. Scammers often use social engineering tactics to trick victims into revealing sensitive information.
  • Tell a trusted family member or friend: If you receive a suspicious call, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted family member or friend for advice. They can provide support and help you assess the legitimacy of the call.
  • Be cautious of sending money: Avoid sending money in response to unsolicited calls, especially if the caller claims to be a family member in distress. Take the time to verify the situation and explore alternative methods of assistance, such as contacting other family members or reaching out to local authorities.
  • Report the fraud to the local police: If you believe you have been targeted by a scam, report the incident to your local police department or the appropriate authorities. Providing details about the scam can help law enforcement agencies investigate and prevent similar incidents in the future.

By staying informed, communicating with your loved ones, and following these tips, you can help protect yourself and your family members from falling victim to scam calls. Stay vigilant and remember that it’s always better to be on the side of caution when it comes to safeguarding your personal information and financial security.

About CATS Technology

CATS Technology is a complete technology solutions provider, dedicated to providing solutions that will streamline operations, enhance productivity and drive innovation for businesses of all sizes. Our professionally trained and certified IT experts empower our clients to leverage the full potential of their IT investments to stay ahead of today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape. 

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