My father-in-law recently received a call from a desperate sounding woman. She called him by his family name for grandfather and said she was in a Mexican jail after a car accident and needed $2,500 to cover damages and be released.
The story is plausible since Mexico only accepts their own auto insurance. Travelers who don’t get it and have the bad luck of accidents are known to stay in jail until they come up with the funds. He thought it was a granddaughter-in-law and was ready to help. Fortunately, one thing tripped up the scammer.
He asked how to spell her name (to give to Western Union) and she couldn’t tell him the name. She tried to bluff it by replying that he knew how to spell her name. Fortunately he insisted and the con artist hung up.
Why Seniors are Targets
My husband and I were shocked that this normally skeptical man was so easily convinced to send the money. The elderly are targeted for con artists for several reasons.
Seniors are most likely to have funds readily accessible. They generally own their own home and have their retirement nest egg. Add in the fact that older folks tend to be more trusting and polite than younger folks. They won’t hang up the phone as quickly or shut the door on solicitors.
When the elderly are victimized they often don’t report it because it’s not clear who to report it to or they don’t want their family members to find out.
How to Fight Elder Fraud
Unfortunately, the grandchild in trouble phone scam was not unique to our family. 11 other local seniors have fallen for the same con and lost many thousands of dollars within the past six months.
It’s important for family members to discuss this type of scam with seniors. Ask them to always confirm the information given before sending any money. If my father-in-law had even tried to call the supposed victim, he would have known she was fine and not in another country.
He did the right thing in asking the caller to confirm their identity. It frightens me to think how it would have gone if he hadn’t done so.
Check how your parents or grandparents set up Facebook and other public profiles. They easily were able to find him in the phone book with the online information. This is also where we suspect the scammer found out the family nickname for grandpa.
This experience has taught all of us something. We need to talk about how to protect family members from potential fraud before it happens. It’s also a good reminder about protecting sensitive information, especially online. Have you or someone you know ever been contacted by scammers?