Grandparent Scam With A New Twist

Written by Theresa Rose on August 8, 2020

The Iowa Department of Public Safety and the Office of the Attorney General of Iowa are warning Iowans to be aware of a “grandparent scam.” Several Iowa communities throughout the state have recently reported efforts by criminal groups to swindle predominately elderly Iowans through the use of this particular scam.

This scam is not new – the Attorney General’s Office has been warning Iowans about the grandparent scam since at least 2008. However, it is presenting a new twist.

The scam involves a phone call to the victim from someone posing as a grandchild. The imposter tells the victim they have been in an accident, hospitalized, jailed, or are even in a foreign country, and they need their grandparent to send money to help them. Local law enforcement authorities have reported a new scam strategy involving couriers who are being sent to the grandparent’s residence to retrieve the money.

Other tricks these scammers employ often involve the use of factual details about the victim’s grandchild obtained from social media accounts. The scammer might also team up with another scammer who pretends to be an attorney, doctor or police officer, backing up the scammer’s claims.

This scam highlights the dangers of sharing personal information, wiring money, providing prepaid money card numbers or bank account information to strangers by telephone. These transactions, which generally transfer funds abroad, are often nearly impossible to trace.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety, the Office of the Attorney General of Iowa and the Federal Trade Commission recommend these tips when someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a grandchild desperate for money:

1.    Verify the person’s identity. Ask questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.
2.    Resist the urge to act quickly or secretly. In a situation where someone is asking for money right now using fear, excitement, or sympathy, it’s probably a scam.
3.    Contact a trusted family member. Call a genuine phone number for your grandchild, or another family member or friend to check out the story even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
4.    Report the scam to local law enforcement authorities. Scammers attack several residents and communities, so get assistance for yourself and help others avoid scam efforts.
5.    Don’t answer the door unless you know and trust the visitor.
6.    Don’t send money. Don’t give out personal information, cash, wire money or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
7.    File a complaint. In additional to notifying local law enforcement authorities, scam calls can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission, as well as the Office of the Attorney General of Iowa.
8.    Learn more about family emergency scams. For more information, read the FTC’s Family Emergency Scams or visit the Attorney General’s Office of Iowa website: www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov/for-consumers/general-consumer-information/phone-scams/grandparent-scam

See the resources below to file a complaint:

Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0106
Email: consumer@ag.iowa.gov
Phones: 515-281-5926 or 888-777-4590 (outside of the Des Moines metro area)
Fax: 515-281-6771
Website: www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov

Federal Trade Commission
Email: ftc.gov/complaint
Phone: 1-877-FTC-HELP
Website: www.consumer.ftc.gov/