Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Grandparent Scams Increase in the Summer

If you're the kind of grandparent that would jump at the chance to help your grandchildren (and let's face it, what grandparent isn't?), you'll want to be a little more careful lending a helping hand this summer. The ever-popular grandparent scam -- wherein scammers pose as grandchildren in desperate need for financial help -- is booming again, thanks to kids travelling on summer vacation.

So be on guard, grandparents, and know how to stay safe from the grandparent scam this summer.

Hi, Grandma?

As Huffington Post helpfully explains, the grandparent scam works a little like this:

The phone rings -- generally when the mark is asleep and will wake up confused -- and the caller will ask, "Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?" When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer has essentially established a fake identity without having done even a lick of background research ... Then the "grandchild" describes some unexpected financial problem -- often that they are traveling and have had their money and credit cards stolen -- and begs granny not to tell his or her parents. Granny is asked to wire money as quickly as possible and not tell anyone.

The scam has been around since 2008, and the FBI and other agencies have continually been warning grandparents to confirm the story with other family members and never wire money based on a phone or email request.

A Nasty Twist

Though the scam has been around for years, a new, frightening twist popped up in Tampa last month. Grandfather Rafael Caminero was staying at his daughter's house when he got a call from a man sobbing on the phone. The man claimed to be Caminero's son-in-law, Keith, and put Caminero on the line with his "lawyer."

The man, who claimed to be David Thomas, said he was an attorney and that Caminero's family had been in a terrible accident and Keith was in jail. Caminero was asked to send $2,000 to help bail Keith out. When he said he couldn't drive, the scammer sent a cab to pick him up and take him to a Western Union at a nearby Publix grocery store.

Getting Caminero out of the house and into a car was especially insidious, since he couldn't find the key to lock the doors before he left.

Perhaps grandparents, like young their grandchildren, should have a password for emergencies. Otherwise, they'll have to be uncharacteristically cold-hearted when their grandchildren find themselves in trouble.

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