Newtown, PA

Authorities Warn About Grandparent's Scam

Gregory Vellner

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Grandparent's Scam targets seniors.Unsplash

NEWTOWN BOROUGH, Pa. -- Grandmom and Grandpop receiving a long-sought phone call from their beloved grandchild sounds wonderful, right? Not necessarily, says Mike Bannon.

“Unfortunately,” said Bannon, director, Bucks County, Pa., Consumer Protection, “this is a particularly disturbing scam that a lot of senior citizens have received.”

It’s the ‘Grandparents Scam,’ he said, and it recently took place here to an elderly resident – a grandmother who believed she was talking to her grandson explaining he needed her help.

“Many times in these cases,” Bannon said, “the victim receives a phone call and for a minute is talking to who they think is their grandson or granddaughter. That person might say, ‘hi, this is your grandson, Michael, and I’ve been arrested. I can’t talk, please talk to my attorney.’”

The fraudulent caller next hands the phone to someone fronting as an attorney or police officer, explained Bannon.

“The grandparent, in this case, now is not talking to the child,” he said. “They are talking to an ‘attorney’ or ‘police officer’ who then tries to scam them out of money.”

Which is exactly what happened June 24 to the borough woman, according to Newtown Borough police, who said the con involved the fake grandson saying he had been in an accident and needed money.

Police said the woman withdrew cash from her bank and handed it over to a fraudulent “attorney” who came to her home wearing a full face mask.

“Whenever I hear ‘The Grandparents Scam,’ I hear many victims say it sounded like their grandchild or they knew my name or nickname,” said Bannon. “That makes me concerned with social media. There’s a lot of information on social media for them to learn about you. You’ve got to limit social media.”

Bannon said the best advice is to not answer an unknown call and “let the answering machine do the work.” But if a senior receives what they believe to be a “Grandparents Scam,’ ask the caller a specific question challenging the caller.

“Ask a question that only the real grandchild would know like what’s your dog’s name,” he said. “Or have a code word made in advance.”

Though there currently is no rise in the frequency of ‘Grandparents Scams,’ such tactics always exist, according to Bannon.

“We’ve been hearing about scams like this for years,” he said. “It always exists, and people should know they can get these calls at any time.”

The incident in Newtown Borough follows a warning in early June about similar scam attempts in this suburban Philadelphia county. Warrington Township police said a number of residents reported being contacted by a person pretending to be their grandson looking for money to get out of police trouble. Police said the recipient of such a call should confirm what is being said with another family member, or contact police.

The FBI, which labeled the ‘Grandparents Scam’ as “yet another fraud that preys on the elderly,” recommended grandparents: resist the pressure to act quickly; try to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine if the call is legitimate, and never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an email.

“Wiring money is like giving cash – once you’ve done it, you can’t get it back,” said a FBI spokesperson in Philadelphia who did not want to be named.

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As a professional journalist for several years -- reporter, editor, feature writer, columnist -- I handled a range of subjects. Breaking news, investigative series, government action, feature events, and staff feature writer with national entertainment magazine interviewing stars including Tom Selleck, Mel Brooks and Danny DeVito. No matter the topic, certain ingredients are key: truth, facts, objectivity, balance.

Bucks County, PA
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