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“Grandma, I’m in trouble and I need help desperately!” Those words would strike fear in the hearts of any of us – in OR out of the Sandwich Generation, caring for elderly parents and often babysitting grandchildren.
They are also likely to rattle us, shake us up, and cause our thinking processes to be less focused than normal. Sadly, there are crooks out there right now, calling elderly people, and counting on all of that. When many of the senior citizens they reach hear those words, they respond something like this. “Janie, is that you?” Now they’ve given the caller just the ammunition they needed. “Yes, Grandma, it’s Janie. I’ve been arrested! It wasn’t my fault. My friend had a stash of drugs with him and I didn’t know it. They arrested both of us. Now I need $5,000 wired to the account I’ll give you as soon as possible!”
Many grandparents – in or out of the Sandwich Generation – have received these types of calls in the last couple of years, and sadly, many of those have fallen prey to the perpetrator’s wiles. According to an article in the St. Louis Business Journal, the Better Business Bureau stated that, “One elderly Milwaukee grandmother sent $15,000 to scammers thinking she was helping a grandchild who had been in a wreck.”
Snopes has some excellent suggestions on how to teach your family, particularly your elderly senior citizen relatives, how to protect themselves from this scam. For starters, don’t ever give out any information to anyone! Also, call other relatives to confirm or disprove the information given. If you can’t reach anyone and you are seriously concerned it might be true, ask the person to give you information that your family members would know but that a stranger would not know.
This is not the first con game targeting senior citizens and it certainly won’t be the last. My parents and I regularly discussed this type of thing and I always stressed how important it is not to give out any information, on the phone or in person. If the person calling doesn’t have the information, they shouldn’t be calling in the first place. They and I generally request that anything that is required needs to be put into written form and mailed to us, at the address they should already have on file for us. Again, as a general rule, if they don’t already have our mailing information, they shouldn’t be asking us any kind of personal questions!