Scam calls are nothing new. Many times, scammers will try to sound like a company we affiliate with in order to get us to divulge information or send money. In recent years; however, one particular kind of scam call has been targeting the elderly. Someone on Facebook the other day was warning others about a scam that targets grandparents in particular, as the caller would pretend to be their grandchildren to solicit money in the form of gift cards or money transfers. The scammers would come up with excuses such as needing money for car payments, rent, bail, and apparently more recently, Covid-19 related issues such as medical appointments and testing. This is not the first time that I have heard of this scam because back in mid 2020, this same scam happened to my grandmother. So now I tell you this story as a cautionary tale to prevent anything bad from happening to your loved ones.

The Call

woman holding mobile phone with incoming call from unknown caller
Digital Team, ronstik

Back in May of 2020, my grandmother called me saying she received a phone call from ME the night before saying that I was in a car accident. The individual used my name. They were able to address themself as me, so they must have had some info on me, as well. The individual said he hit another driver, who was a pregnant lady. Apparently, my car was totaled, and I had a busted lip that needed stitches, hence why I sounded different. This individual went on to tell my grandmother to reach out to his public defender and pleaded with her to pay his bond to get out of jail. He even gave her a phone number to call and his “case number.”

The Warning Signs

Senior couple looking through bills
Digital Team, PIKSEL

Despite my grandmother being caught off guard, and feeling the rush of the situation, she knew a number of things were off.

  1. I do not refer to my grandmother as Grandma. I have my own unique name for her that I have used since I was a toddler.
  2. I named my car. I know, it is silly, but I have fun with it. I have given it a "person" name and often refer to it as such. Not once did he say the car's name.
  3. The area code for the phone number did not match anything around this area. I looked it up, it was an area code in New Jersey.
  4. And lastly- he did not give her "the code."

The Code

Young bearded man talking on smartphone in misunderstanding on gray background.
Digital Team, SIphotography

At the time, my grandmother was 93, but don't let her age fool you, she was still sharp. A few months prior (see, this scam has been around for a while), she heard about scams like these on the news where people will impersonate grandchildren to scam the elderly into sending gift cards or money transfers for "emergencies." She called me asking if I knew anything about it. I did not at the time. She decided we needed to have a code if there was ever a real emergency so she knew it was me. So we established a code that only we would know.

So, before my grandmother hung up the phone, she asked this individual for our code. He said that we don't have a code. And she said again, "yes we do, and what is it?" The individual asked for the code. She said I can't tell you, and hung up.

Share This Information With Your Family!

Family photographing themselves with digital camera in park
Creative Services, Wavebreakmedia Ltd

My grandmother reported this information to the authorities. This is not the only time this had happened. One time while I was over at my grandparents, I picked up the phone for them. The male on the other end asked for Grandpa. I asked who it was because I am their only male grandchild. The person said my name. I responded, "Oh, that's funny, because I'm Conor." The awkward pause before he hung up was hilarious.

I wanted to post this and get people's attention to this scam to hopefully help others. If you have received a call, or know someone who received a call like this, please alert the authorities and do not follow through with any transaction. I also recommend having codes with various loved ones or at least having something like “security questions” that only the true person could answer. Keep your family safe, and protect yourselves against scams like these.

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