A new group of con artists, known as ‘granny scammers, are taking advantage of information posted on social media accounts to try to con unsuspecting seniors out of money. The scammers are posing as loved ones or family members and contacting seniors asking for money. The scammers are scouring social media outlets for details or information that support their ruse, and are targeting elderly people specifically.
Here is how the con works. The granny scammers look through popular social media websites, such as Facebook, to find key pieces of information about people. This information typically includes travel plans, the names of a person’s elderly relatives, the names of children or grandchildren, or other personal details that might allow them to impersonate someone. Then, armed with their knowledge, the granny scammers will call elderly peoples and pretend to be their loved one. They will tell the elderly person that they need money, and that the senior should send money right away.
For example, the scammers will often pose as a senior’s grandchild who is on vacation. They might say that they have run into legal trouble and need the senior to wire them money, typically through Western Union or some other money transfer service that isn’t voidable. They’ll also tell the elderly person not to contact the grandchild’s parents or other relatives, or come up with some reason to keep the transaction secrete.
The scam plays on two common traits amongst the elderly: their unfamiliarity with social media, and hearing loss. Elderly victims can be uncertain of whose voice it is on the phone calling them, and when the con-artist supplies the relevant details to persuade the victim, it’s often enough to complete the con.
Financial Elder Abuse Serious Threat to Elderly and Their Finances
Though the use of social media to scam elderly people out of their money might be relatively new, the phenomena of elder financial abuse is not. It is also incredibly common.
According to the National Council on the Aging, seniors lose about $2.9 billion per year to confidence scams, fraud schemes, and other types of financial elder abuse. Further, the majority of the money lost to these scams never goes reported, often because seniors feel a sense of shame or embarrassment about being duped.
Protections Against Granny Scammers
The best way to protect yourself and elderly relatives from these types of confidence scams is to limit what you and your family members post on social media. You can also agree on a secret word you can share between family members if someone needs to call someone else for assistance. Also, if you get a call from someone asking for money and it is not a family member, contact your local police department through their direct line, not 9-1-1.