Senator Collins Warns Of Persistent Grandparent Scam

Con artists pretend to be the victim’s grandchild and claim to be in trouble

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, is warning of an increasing number of calls to the committee’s Fraud Hotline reporting of a persistent phone scam that targets grandparents.

Through this so-called “Grandparent Scam,” of which there are multiple variations, scammers typically call an older adult pretending to be a family member, often a grandchild. The con artist claims to be in urgent need of money to cover medical care or a legal problem, such as for bail or legal services following a supposed arrest.

In another version of the scam, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, or a doctor. It is also common for con artists impersonating victims’ grandchildren to talk briefly with the victims and then hand the phone over to an accomplice impersonating an authority figure. This gives the scammers’ stories more credibility and reduces the chance that the victim will recognize that the voice on the phone does not belong to their grandchild.

Senator Collins warns, “This is a particularly cruel scam, as it combines financial loss with unwarranted worry over a loved one.”

Last year, the Grandparent Scam was the sixth most reported scam into the committee’s Fraud Hotline. Data from the Fraud Hotline was used to publish a comprehensive anti-fraud resource guide titled, Fighting Fraud: U.S. Senate Aging Committee Identifies Top 10 Scams Targeting Our Nation’s Seniors.

As Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, Senator Collins has made it a top priority to inform the public and help protect Americans, especially seniors, from falling victim to such con artists. In 2014, Senator Collins and then-Chairman Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) led a hearing that examined the grandparent scam.

If you receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to be a relative, here are steps you can take to avoid falling victim:

  • Con artists often force you to make decisions fast and may even threaten you. If the caller is threatening, hang up immediately.
  • Before agreeing to pay money, ask a friend or family member about it and try to contact the relative who is claiming to have called you.
  • Ask the person on the phone questions that only the real family member would know, such as the name of a family pet or a father’s middle name.

If you or someone you know suspect you have been the victim of a scam or fraud aimed at seniors, contact the Aging Committee Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.