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Protect Seniors from Popular "Grandparents Scam"

While it might seem difficult to imagine that everyone hasn't heard about this phone-based scheme already, new victims are reporting the crime daily.

The scam works like this: a con artist calls a grandparent and opens with a friendly "Hello Grandma" (or Grandpa). From there, it's a story about being in jail — or that the grandchild is perhaps stranded — and that money is needed to get out and/or get home. The con relies upon its victim's sense of panic and an unquestioning familial urge to help.

The scam calls are still succeeding around the country and in Canada. Throughout July 2011, reports have come in from Connecticut, where a Brookfield grandfather was conned out of $3,400, and in Montreal, Canada, where a grandmother was scammed out of some $3,600. And recently a southeastern Ohio grandmother thought she was talking to her granddaughter. The caller said she was in a Mexican jail and that she needed a wire transfer of nearly $6,000 to get out. Before long, the grandmother wired funds totaling more than $14,000. The granddaughter, however, was safely in the U.S. the whole time.

Following are tips to help protect the public against these calls:

Spread the word: Tell your loved ones about the grandparent scam.

Rule of thumb: Never wire-transfer money to someone who calls unexpectedly, even if the caller claims to be a grandchild or other family member.

Detailed questions: Ask callers questions that only your real family members would know how to answer.

Double check: First, hang up and call the alleged family member, their parents or someone who can confirm their location.

Don't broadcast: Encourage your family not to post upcoming travel plans online.

This article appeared in The Consumer Chronicle and has been reprinted with permission from the author.

James O'Brien for

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