The basic story seemed plausible enough: a Chicago woman’s grandson got on the phone and said that he was in jail because he caused a car accident because he was texting while driving. Kids today definitely do that, right? The problem was that the “grandson” was an impostor, there was no accident, and he didn’t have a lawyer who was collecting iTunes gift cards to cover his bail.
A smooth-talking scammer can make a lot of things seem reasonable, and now the 79-year-old victim is speaking out to warn others. The fake lawyer told her to buy $4,000 worth of iTunes gift cards, then read the codes of the back. These codes can be cashed in or resold. She had to visit two different stores, since there’s a very reasonable limit of $2,000 worth of gift cards that you can buy at once.
The lawyer then asked for another $6,000 worth of cards, and she complied, visiting three different stores and reading off the codes to the fake lawyer over the phone. She refused to buy any more cards when they called a third time, and then checked in with her grandson about his accident. That’s when she learned that she had been scammed out of $10,000.
The head of the FTC in Chicago explained to the local CBS station that the grandparent scam is a “really big problem” everywhere, and “anybody over a certain age is almost guaranteed they’re going to receive a call.” My own parents received them, but were aware of the scam and don’t have grandchildren, so they kept the scammers on the line to waste their time instead.
Set up a password with your grandparents and other elderly relatives, and make sure that they’ve been warned about the scam.