Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today

Scam Alert

“Grandkids” Tap Grandparents for Fast Cash

The classic “grandparent scam” is back—with a vengeance.

Who could refuse a beloved grandchild who’s in trouble?

You know the answer, so you need to be aware of telephone calls from “grandchildren” asking for money. Yes, the classic “grandparent scam” is back—with a vengeance.

In recent weeks, police across the country have reported an upsurge in reports of callers who phone older Americans, posing as their grandchildren in need of fast cash and urging their victims to send them money via a money order or through a wire service like Western Union or MoneyGram.

How do they get away with it?

Usually, the phone call starts something like this: “Hi, Grandma, is that you?” or “Hi, Grandpop, it’s me—your favorite granddaughter!”

“What happens is that the senior may be momentarily confused or not recognize the voice because of hearing loss, and respond with something like, ‘Mary is that you?’ Once they relate to a name, they’re pretty much hooked,” explains Detective Carl Filsinger of the Weston, Conn., police department. In just two weeks, his department—which serves a town of only 10,000 people—received at least six reports of these phone calls. And since many targets don’t report these crimes, Filsinger says the number of incidents is probably higher.

One Weston grandmother was about to purchase a $2,400 money order at Wal-Mart—for her “grandchild”—but a store employee alerted her to the possibility of a scam, says Filsinger.

A common crisis summoned up by callers: They say they’ve been jailed in Canada and ask for bail money to be wired to that country; that ploy recently duped one Tulsa, Okla., area grandparent out of $5,500. But recent requests are also for money to pay for car trouble, tuition, textbooks or other “emergency” expenses.

“The callers stress they need the money fast, and usually want a money order or MoneyGram rather than a personal check,” says Filsinger. The scammer can easily get the cash, often without showing identification.

To protect yourself from these phony phone calls:

  • Don’t fill in the blanks. If the caller says, “It’s your granddaughter,” respond with “Which one?” Most likely, the perpetrator will then hang up, says the Washington state Attorney General’s Office, which has posted an advisory on its web site.
  • Verify the caller. Always confirm your grandchild’s identity by saying you will return the call at his or her home or on his cellphone (but don’t ask the caller for it). If you don’t have your grandchildren’s phone numbers, contact a trusted family member for them.
  • Be mum on account numbers. Never provide your bank or credit card account numbers to any caller—regardless of the reason.
  • Be suspicious of requests for money wires.
  • So if your “grandchild” calls requesting money, contact your local police department or state attorney general’s office.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits HomeServe

Members can protect their homes with comprehensive repair plans from HomeServe.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Woman holding smartphone in city, Google map tool

Members can find discounts on the go via the AARP® Member Advantages Offer Finder app.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points


Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.