How to Avoid the Grandparent Scam

Author: PeopleFinders on May 19th, 2020
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In the scamming world, there’s the perception that elderly people are naive to the mechanisms behind various scams. Or, to put it more simply, older people are good marks.

Unfortunately, that perception is still fairly true. But many older citizens are fighting back against the wave of scamming. Whether it’s you or your other family members and loved ones who are growing older, it’s especially important to pay attention to scams and learn more about how to avoid them.

One of the most common scams against elderly people right now is the so-called “grandparent scam,” sometimes also referred to as the “grandchild scam.”

What is the grandparent scam? And how can you make sure you’re not taken in?

The Grandparent Scam

At its core, the grandparent scam is pretty simple:

-You get a phone call from an unknown number.

-The person claims to be your grandchild, usually in a rushed and hurried manner, and says that they need money for some reason. That reason might be for bail, for medical expenses or any other extremely urgent reason.

-Then the person will ask you to wire money. The amount can be anything, but is often enough to make a pretty sizable dent on your finances, often thousands of dollars.

-You agree to wire money.

-The person takes off with it, and you’ll never hear from them–or see your money–again.

Why It Works

This is one of the most efficient ways to scam elderly people, and many scammers utilize it. But why is it so effective?

The first reason is simply because scammers are good at it. There are likely lots of holes in the scammer’s story: Why is the phone number unknown? Why did the “grandchild” call you? Why do you need to send money through wire and not some other method? A good scammer will have plenty of answers for these questions, and have them all ready to go before even contacting you.

The second reason is simply that you love your grandchildren, and scammers know that. By preying on your love of your grandchildren, the scammer will try to take as much money as possible.

You naturally want to see your grandchildren happy and healthy. If that means helping them to pay some unexpected bills, you’ll probably do that. To create a sense of urgency in the matter, the scammer will probably use some plaintive “grandma” or “grandpa” when you pick up the phone, and offer a terrifying tale as to why you’re the only person who can help them.

Lastly, the sheer amount of information available online makes it very easy for people to create these stories. It might amaze you how much information a scammer can provide to make it seem like the scam is more valid: the grandchild’s name, your name and other family members’ names, just to start.

How You Can Avoid It

This is clearly a very scary thing to experience, and making the wrong decision here can be very dangerous. How can you avoid making that decision?

First off, you should always be vigilant for scams. Although you don’t have to be paranoid of everyone around you, it’s important to check with other people before you wire money. And never send money using gift cards or other insecure means. If you have an elderly friend or family member, talk to that person about scams and impart a little education on the matter.

If you do happen to get a call like this, fear is your worst enemy. A scammer’s success relies on the idea that you will panic and turn over the money quickly, without thinking. But instead, take a deep breath, and ask the caller a question to which only your grandchild would know the answer. Odds are, the scammer won’t have an answer ready for that. And you will confirm that is not, in fact, your grandchild on the other end of the line.

Another approach you can take is to try and identify the unknown number, using a site like PeopleFinders. When you get a phone call from someone who claims to be your grandchild, you can use PeopleFinders’ reverse phone lookup to try and check that number and verify if the claim is genuine or not.


There are lots of scams out there, and some of them, like the grandparent scam, prey specifically on elderly people to make a quick buck. No one wants to be the subject of a scam, but it could be especially devastating–emotionally as well as financially–for an elderly individual.

You need to be especially sharp to avoid these scams. To lend yourself an extra layer of protection, educate yourself, remember to stay calm, and have PeopleFinders at the ready should you ever need to look up any unknown phone numbers (from your “grandchild” or anyone else).

Image attribution: Daisy Daisy –

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Categorized in: Scams