How to avoid the 'grandparent scam'

Scammers target grandparents

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It is estimated that seniors lose roughly $3 billion dollars a year in financial scams.

The “grandparent scam” is among the most common.

What happens is that scammers call, claiming to be a grandchild who is hurt or in trouble. They say they need money.

When grandfather Ken Springer received a call recently, it sounded urgent.

The caller said he was Springer’s grandson. He said he was in a car crash and in jail, facing drunk driving charges.

“Whoever impersonated him should get an Academy Award, because it was so good,” Springer said.

In order to get out of jail, the caller said Springer needed to wire money to an attorney. Springer complied, sending more than $1,700.

He later found out it was a scam. His grandson was fine.

“I can’t believe people are that low,” Springer said.

The Oregon Department of Justice gave the following tips for avoiding the grandparent scam:

1. Do not be fooled by detailed greetings where the caller seems to know your relative's name, such as: "Hi Grandma, it's Joey. I'm in trouble..." Many smart scammers are able to get names and details from online 2 directories, social networking websites, or even obituaries. Some hack into email accounts to get this personal information to help with their fraud.

2. When the supposed family member pleads with you not to tell his or her family what happened, don't trust that request. Immediately reach out to parents or other relatives to ensure your relative's safety. More than likely, your relative (grandchild, niece, nephew, etc.) is safe and sound at work, school or home -- not in trouble in a foreign country.

3. When in doubt, contact the Oregon Department of Justice's Consumer Hotline for help at 1-877-877-9392. NEVER send money before verifying the legitimacy of calls such as this, and, in any event, don't send money to accounts you are not familiar with by wire transfer. The Oregon Department of Justice can help you determine if the situation is a scam. If it fits this description, the chances are almost 100% that it is a scam!



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