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Grandparent Scam Gains Popularity, Robs Elderly of Thousands of Dollars

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You may have heard of the dubious "grandparent scam" that gained popularity a few years ago. Callers scam the elderly by calling and pretending to be a grandchild that has been arrested in another country and is in desperate need of money to get out of their jam. However, the whole thing is a hoax and has tricked many elderly into sending money to these scammers.

Now the FBI says that the scam is back again (.pdf). The con has been around since 2008 but has become more advanced with the use of the Internet and social media websites that scammers use to research potential targets. For example, scammers may find out that a grandchild is a photographer conducting work in Mexico and use that information to scam an unknowing grandparent into believing that their grandchild has been arrested while visiting Mexico.

Financial losses from these scams can amount to thousands of dollars. These amounts do not merit an FBI investigation, but people who believe they have been a victim to a grandparent scam can contact their local authorities or state consumer protection agency. The FBI suggests that you never wire money based on a request made via the telephone or email and that you resist the urge to act quickly in seemingly desperate situations such as these. Once money is wired, it is gone and you cannot get it back.