31 Mar A NEW LOOK AT THE ‘GRANDPARENTS SCAM’
Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD
is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook . For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A NEW LOOK AT THE ‘GRANDPARENTS SCAM’
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program
Here we are in April of 2022! It’s time for Easter egg hunts and for filing federal and state income taxes! It’s also time for April showers that we hope will bring an abundance of May flowers! There’s always a lot going on in April – this year, perhaps more so than ever. Many of us are just beginning to venture out into the world again, bit by bit, after two years of “staying at home” because of the pandemic. But let’s not throw caution to the wind as we emerge from our cocoons. Be aware that scammers will use anything and everything that’s happening in the world to try and separate you from your life savings. Whether there’s a pandemic, or an earthquake, or a war. No matter what, they will stop at nothing to achieve their sociopathic dreams. So, we must be prepared and remain awake.
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, renowned Jungian analyst and author of WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES, offered some wise advice about the times in which we live in a recent Facebook post. — Dear Brave Souls: Against Forgetting: Stay awake now, focus … be cautious, there are more scammers afoot than I’ve ever seen online, in email, texts, facebook, instagram, tik tok, twitter and elsewhere… Now is a time to listen acutely as you walk in life…to your intuitions about goodness and about impersonators. (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100044407507063, March 11, 2022) And Washington Post Personal Finance columnist Michelle Singletary has some good advice as well. — To avoid a scam using the conflict in Ukraine or any other current event, start with the premise that every direct message, link, email or text is fake and work from there. This should be your default response to any contact you did not initiate. Trust nothing. Verify everything. Paranoia is your protection from losing your hard-earned money.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/03/09/how-to-avoid-ukraine-scams/)
Recently, the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) had its first in-person performance since the pandemic began back in March 2020! We were so excited to perform before an audience of 40 seniors at Sharrei Tefila Synagogue in Los Angeles. Many thanks to Bernice Gelman, Program Director of Sharrei Tefila Synagogue, for her gracious hospitality! In the last act of our show, the Stop Senior Scams Actors presented a reenactment of a “support group for victims of fraud.” Each actor played the role of someone who had been taken in by a different type of scam – e.g., pet scams, romance scams, grandparents’ scams, etc. – and shared a little bit about their experience of having been scammed.
During the Q&A following our performance, a woman in the audience named Shirley shared a personal story of how she had almost fallen prey to the grandparents’ scam. Shirley said she received a phone call from someone who sounded like her grandson, Aaron, and in fact, said his name was Aaron. The caller said he had been arrested on a drug charge and needed her to send money right away for bail. Shirley argued with the caller saying something like, “But Aaron, you don’t do drugs! I can’t believe this!” The caller again reiterated his case, and Shirley again balked at the idea her grandson would use drugs. Finally, the caller said, “Ok, granny. You don’t have to worry about it.” That’s when Shirley realized it was a scam. Why? Because in her language, Yiddish, the word for grandmother isn’t “granny.” It’s “Bubbie.” Shirley said as soon as she heard the word “granny,” she knew for sure that she was not speaking to her grandson Aaron and hung up the phone. Her grandson, Shirley said, would never call her “granny.” He would call her “Bubbie.” Thankfully, Shirley’s awareness saved the day!
Photo: Seated – Shirley. Standing Left to Right – Sherry McCoy, Ros Mandelberg, Companion of Shirley
NOTE: In honor of Older Americans Month and National Senior Fraud Awareness Day, the focus of my scam buster article for the May 2022 issue of Not Born Yesterday! will focus on personal scam stories of seniors. If you have a scam story you’d like to share with readers of this newspaper, please write to me at “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or email@example.com. Thank you!
Not everyone, however, is as lucky as Shirley. According to AARP (https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/grandparent.html#:~:text=Grandparent%20scams%20and%20related%20cons,or%20friend%20of%20the%20victim.), the grandparents’ scam and other related scams are quite common and lucrative. – [F]rom 2015 through the first quarter of 2020, the FTC logged more than 91,000 reports of crooks posing as a relative or friend of the victim … Eight people charged in a July 2021 federal indictment allegedly ran a nationwide scam network that used this ruse to steal some $2 million from more than 70 older Americans over an 11-month period in 2019 and 2020.
Tips from to help you steer clear of the grandparents’ scam
MAKE sure your privacy settings on social media accounts allow only people you know to see your posts, comments and pictures. Scammers are always on the lookout for ways to glean your personal information and use it against you.
IF you get a call from someone claiming to be a grandchild asking for money to help with an alleged emergency of some kind, just hang up! Immediately call the grandchild on a phone number you know is legit, to make sure they are OK and safe. Also, contact other family members to make sure there is no actual emergency.
SETUP a “code word” between you and your grandchild, a word that only the two of you know. Then, if you get a phone call from someone claiming to be your grandchild or a friend of your grandchild asking for money to help with an alleged emergency, you can ask the caller what the code word is. If the caller doesn’t know the code word, you will know the call is not legit. Hang up!
DON’T volunteer personal information. Scammers fish for information they can use to make their impersonation more authentic. For example, if a caller says something like “Hi grandma! It’s me!” don’t say the name of your grandchild. Let the caller say it.
DON’T wire money or send cash or buy gift cards to give to someone claiming to be your grandchild. Con artists ask for money using these methods because it’s very difficult to track.
TRUST your instincts. The American Bar Association says — If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t!
NOTE – If you sent cash through Western Union (WU) to someone you suspect may be a scammer, call their hotline immediately at 800-448-1492. Likewise, if you used MoneyGram (MG) to send cash to a suspected scammer, call their hotline ASAP at 800-926-9400. If the transfer hasn’t yet been made, WU or MG may be able to stop the transfer and your money could be refunded.
WHERE TO REPORT SCAMS
Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.
For questions about Medicare fraud / abuse, contact Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080.
U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
SAVE THE DATE!
In celebration of National Senior Fraud Awareness Day, SSSAP will host a free virtual library program with Exposition Park – Dr. Mary McLeon Bethune Regional Library on Wednesday, May 11th at 3pm. To make reservations, call Eugene Owens at 323-290-3149, firstname.lastname@example.org. SSSAP continues virtual programs, and we are now booking in-person programs for 2022. Please contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com for more info, or if your organization would like to host our program.
STOP SENIOR SCAMS℠ ACTING PROGRAM on YOUTUBE
Please go to the SSSAP YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjFjb-WPPr8KAXq1dlu1EvA to see our new videos. If you subscribe (free of charge), you will be notified when new videos are released. Together we can Stop Senior Scams! Here are links to two of our most recent videos: “The Top Senior Scams with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp097g7hTUg, and “Robocalls, Mail Fraud and Merlin with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3noym9JPo&t=186s.
Remember – You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSAP2016/?fref=ts. For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or email@example.com.