What To Do If Your Grandma Gets Scammed?

a Grandma and her granddaughter

Scammers are increasingly targeting senior citizens, individuals aged 60 and older, in a variety of scams and fraudulent schemes. This is due to the perception that older individuals, especially grandmothers, may be less knowledgeable about technology and more financially secure. 

According to the National Council on Aging, there were 88,262 reports of fraud from individuals over 60 years old, resulting in $3.1 billion in losses in 2022. The average financial loss per victim of elder fraud exceeded $35,000, with over 5,000 victims losing more than $100,000. California leads the nation in the number of elderly fraud victims, with a total loss of $624,509,520 in 2022.

What should you do if your grandma falls victim to a scam? You need to address the issue and provide support to her. This matter holds great significance as it not only affects your grandma's financial well-being but also her emotional state. So, you need to take immediate action, help her recover from the scam, and prevent further harm.

Understanding the Scam

Scammers often target grandmothers due to their tendency to have a hard time saying no, especially when it comes to their grandchildren. These fraudsters take advantage of grandmothers' emotions and vulnerabilities, making them prime targets for various scams. Some common scams that target grandmothers include:
  • Impersonation scams: In this type of grandparent scam, as it is known, the fraudster pretends to be a grandchild in distress, claiming to need money urgently for a fabricated emergency such as medical bills or legal fees.
  • Emergency scams: Scammers create a sense of urgency by claiming that a loved one is in trouble and needs immediate financial assistance. They prey on the grandmother's desire to help and protect her family.
  • Lottery or prize scams: This scam involves fraudsters deceiving grandmothers into believing they have won a large sum of money or a valuable prize, but in order to claim it, they must first pay a fee or provide personal information.
  • Tech support scams: Scammers pose as tech support representatives and convince grandmothers that their computer or device is infected with a virus. They then offer to fix the issue for a fee, but in reality, they are installing malware or stealing personal information. In 2019, the financial impact of fraudulent tech support scams on the elderly amounted to $38,000. However, just one year later, this figure skyrocketed to a staggering $116 million, according to spectrum local news.
  • Investment scams: Scammers promise high returns on investments and pressure grandmothers into making quick decisions without fully understanding the risks involved. They exploit their desire to secure their financial future.
  • Romance scams: Scammers create fake online profiles and establish romantic relationships with grandmothers, gaining their trust and affection. They then manipulate them into sending money or personal information under false pretenses.

Scammers use various tactics to manipulate emotions and deceive elderly individuals. By preying on the love and concern grandmothers have for their grandchildren, scammers are able to exploit their trust and ultimately defraud them.

Recognizing the Signs

You need to stay vigilant for signs of potential financial abuse when your grandmother is residing at home, in an assisted living facility, or living alone. You should note that perpetrators of financial abuse are not always strangers; caregivers, friends, and even other relatives can exploit the trust of older adults. According to a recent AARP Study, an estimated $28.3 billion is lost to elder fraud scams annually, with 72% of that amount—more than $20 billion—being taken by individuals known to the victims, such as family members, friends, or advisers.

Here are some red flags that may indicate your grandmother is being financially exploited:
  • Mysterious withdrawals from her financial accounts: One sign that your grandmother may be experiencing financial exploitation include unexplained withdrawals from her financial accounts. If she is unable to account for these transactions or if they seem suspicious, it could be a red flag that someone is taking advantage of her financially.
  • Missing personal items, cash, checkbooks, debit cards, or credit cards: Another warning sign is missing personal items, cash, checkbooks, debit cards, or credit cards. If your grandmother is unable to locate these items and there is no reasonable explanation for their disappearance, it could indicate that someone is stealing from her.
  • Unpaid bills: Unpaid bills can also be an indication that your grandmother is being financially exploited. If she is usually diligent about paying her bills on time but suddenly has unpaid bills piling up, it could be a sign that someone is mismanaging her finances.
  • Changes in signatures on documents and checks: Variations in signatures on documents and checks could be a sign of financial exploitation. If your grandmother's signature appears different on official documents or checks, it could indicate that someone else is forging her signature without her consent.
  • Unusual alterations to her wills, power of attorney, or other legal documents: Be wary of unusual changes to your grandmother's wills, power of attorney, or other legal documents. If these documents are altered in a way that does not align with her wishes, it could be a sign that someone is manipulating her for financial gain.
  • Mysterious transfers of her assets: If your grandmother's assets are mysteriously transferred without her knowledge or consent, it could be a clear indication of financial exploitation. Keep an eye out for any unauthorized transfers of her assets.
  • Payments for services or goods she doesn't actually use: Payments for services or goods that your grandmother does not use or need could be a sign of financial exploitation. If she is being charged for things she did not purchase or receive, it could indicate that someone is taking advantage of her financially.
  • Developing a secretive relationship with someone online: Developing a secretive relationship with someone online could also be a red flag for financial exploitation. If your grandmother is keeping this relationship hidden from her family or if the individual is pressuring her to send money or make financial decisions, it could be a cause for concern.
  • A caregiver who seems to be limiting her communication: Lastly, if a caregiver seems to be restricting your grandmother's communications or controlling who she interacts with, it could be a sign of financial exploitation. Pay attention to any attempts to isolate her from friends and family or to monitor and control her interactions.

You need to pay close attention to any unusual behavior, financial transactions, or requests for secrecy. Your grandmother's mental and financial well-being are important, so stay vigilant and protect her from potential financial fraud.

Stay Calm and Gather Information

You need to keep a level head when you suspect or discover that your grandma has fallen victim to a scam. Gather as much information as possible, like the scammer's contact details, transaction records, and any relevant documents. The more info you have, the better equipped you'll be to help law enforcement track down the scammer.

Gather information such as:

  • Name of suspects or witnesses: For example, if your grandmother received a phone call from someone claiming to be from a government agency, note down the name they provided.
  • Date, time, and frequency of the incidents: Additionally, record the date, time, and frequency of the incidents. For instance, if your grandmother received multiple calls over the span of a week, document each occurrence.
  • Transaction records: Transaction records are crucial evidence in tracking down scammers. Keep a record of any financial transactions that took place as a result of the scam. For example, if your grandmother sent money to the scammer via wire transfer, keep a copy of the transaction details.
  • Description of the scam: Provide a detailed description of the scam itself. Include any information your grandmother shared with you about the scam, such as promises made by the scammer or tactics used to deceive her.

If the scam happened online, check emails and messages for clues, but be cautious of clicking on any suspicious links. And if the financial abuse occurred at a nursing home or assisted living facility, talk to the administrator about what happened.

Contact Financial Institutions

If your grandma falls victim to a scam, the first step is to contact her bank, credit card companies, or other financial institutions to report the scam and prevent further financial loss. Have all of her accounts frozen and her passwords changed to protect against unauthorized access.

Report the Scam

To report an elder fraud in the United States, you can reach out to:
  1. National Elder Fraud Hotline
  2. Adult Protective Services (APS) in your states
  3. Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
  4. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

When submitting a report, be ready to provide as much information as possible. This includes the victim's mailing address, email address, and phone number. Additionally, a detailed description of the incident should be included, along with the victim's bank and account details, as well as the subject/recipient bank and account details. If applicable, cryptocurrency wallet details should also be provided. It is crucial to include transaction dates and amounts, as well as the full financial wiring/routing instructions provided by the scammer.

Reporting financial losses from certain types of elder fraud promptly, even within three days, can improve the chances of getting the money back. Reporting is crucial because it's the first step in getting help from the authorities and can also help catch the fraudsters, stopping them from scamming more people.

Seek Legal Advice

If your grandma falls victim to a scam, I suggest that you consult with an attorney who specializes in elder law to understand the legal options available. You can find one through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) or your local bar association. Usually, if your grandma is 60 or older, she might be able to get free legal help.

As an intermediary, your elder law attorney plays a crucial role in maintaining communication between you, the victim, law enforcement, and adult protective services. By acting as a liaison with the relevant agencies, the attorney ensures that investigations progress smoothly and that the rights and interests of the older person are safeguarded.

Furthermore, according to DDV Law, an elder law attorney is equipped to pursue the recovery of any assets that have been misappropriated or stolen. This may involve collaborating with financial institutions, initiating legal action against the perpetrator, or exploring alternative legal avenues to retrieve the stolen funds or assets.

Educate and Empower

In light of the fact that criminals target millions of elderly Americans each year through various financial fraud schemes, it is crucial to educate your grandmother about common scams and how to protect herself. Offer her guidance on staying safe online, identifying scams, and refraining from sharing personal information with strangers. Additionally, assist her in signing up for a spam-blocking service to minimize the number of spam calls she receives.

Emotional Support

Supporting your grandmother after she's been scammed is super important to help her deal with all the tough emotions and obstacles that come with such a crappy situation. First off, show her you care by being understanding and empathetic. 

Let her know you get how she's feeling - vulnerable, angry, and betrayed. Create a safe space for her to open up and share her feelings without fear of judgment. Encourage her to talk about what happened and really listen without jumping in with solutions. This will help her process everything and feel validated. And don't forget to remind her she's not alone - you're there for her every step of the way. 

Show her love and support, and make sure she knows the scam wasn't her fault. Everyone can get tricked by those sneaky scammers. Remind her of how awesome she is and all the times she's overcome challenges in the past. Keep checking in on her regularly, even after the shock wears off. Be patient as she heals - it takes time. Remind her of her strengths and the love and support she has from her family and friends. Help her rebuild her confidence and trust in others.

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