Grandparent Fraud Increasing Because of Social Media

4 years 3 weeks 3 days ago Friday, March 28 2014 Mar 28, 2014 Friday, March 28, 2014 1:02:00 PM CDT March 28, 2014 in News
By: Megan Schultz, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

JEFFERSON CITY - One type of scam against the elderly is increasing because it's easier to access personal information through social media.

"Grandparent fraud" happens when a scammer calls a grandmother or grandfather pretending to be their grandchild, and asks the grandparent to wire money.

"Your family member is in trouble. They need bail money. They need lawyer fees," said Joe Bindbeutel, head of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division. "Whatever it happens to be, they put time pressure on the elderly person and of course pull on those heart strings and they are very, very successful."

Grandparent fraud has become more prevalent because personal information is now widely available through Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets.

"In the recent decade, with the prevalence of personal information being widely available to a number of people, it's easier and easier for scammers to appear that they really know the person they're talking about, that they really know your child or your grandchild," Bindbeutel said. "It has caused an uptick over the last several years."

A common type of grandparent fraud happens during spring break week for college students. If a student posts about his or her spring break location, a scammer may see that location, and then find family connections and phone numbers online. The scammer then calls the grandparents and pretends to be their grandkids or a lawyer. The scammer may say the grandchild is in jail and then request money for bail money and lawyer fees. 

"It is very, very easy in today's world to put two and two together," Bindbeutel said. "It doesn't take very much. As long as they can get a little bit of information and tie it to a family member, particularly a senior citizen or grandparent, that's all a scammer needs. They can make up a story that sounds very compelling."

He says a big component and red flag of grandparent fraud is timeliness.

"The hallmark of virtually all scams is hurry, you've got to hurry," Bindbeutel said. 

Once that money is wired, it's hard to get back.

"Once a couple [or] three days go by, it's very difficult because the money is gone on the other end," Bindbeutel said. 

He also said grandparent scammers come from all over the world.

"It's a tremendous variety," Bindbeutel said. "It's people from countries like Central America, Africa is very common, Jamaica. But we also have people that are traced back to the United States and even in Missouri."

These types of scammers also tend to be hit and run.

"They'll come into an area, they'll saturate the area, and then they'll get out quickly because they realize they're going to get caught at some point," Bindbeutel said. "Someone is going to wise up and get us on their trail, so they tend to be very spotty from area to area and frankly from country to country."

Janice Stowell Clark, an administrator at the Candlelight Lodge in Columbia, said she's seen an increase in elderly fraud over the past three years because of technology.

"We've seen quite an increase," Stowell Clark said. "As a matter of fact, just last month in February, two of our prospective residents were here because of being exploited in their homes."

She says scammers target senior citizens because they are particularly vulnerable.

"Fifty percent of people over the age of 85 have some form of forgetfulness, some dementia, something that might cause them to not be able to think as clearly or use as much good judgement as they had before," Stowell Clark said. 

But, she says, she gets it.

"I'm a grandmother so I know," Stowell Clark said. "Four grandchildren and I would do just about anything for them."

Bindbeutel agrees that senior citizens are particularly vulnerable.

"Most older folks are raised to be trusting," Bindeutel said. "They're raised to be honest and they assume other people are honest as well. They tend to be very attractive parties for financial scams because they've been responsible and put a little bit aside for themselves."

Places like the Candlelight Lodge have taken proactive measures to prevent their residents from being targets of scams.

 "We'll have seminars and different training opportunities for family members to come in and learn about best practices for trends we're seeing in the neighborhood," said Trina Almond, community outreach coordinator at Candlelight Lodge. "We also tend to track anyone that's called. We of course ask what their conditions are surrounding their call because most people aren't just picking up and calling for no reason."

There are some steps senior citizens can do to prevent fraud.

Bindbeutel says the most important preventative measure is double checking with a family member before wiring money.

"If they have any concern that a loved one is in trouble, they need to call that loved one, call their family, and make sure it's true before they do what the scammer is asking," Bindbeutel said. 

If a senior citizen thinks he or she is the target of a scam, it's important to call the Attorney General's office immediately.

"It's very important to call us immediately for their own benefit because sometimes if it's reported very quickly, we can get wire transfers reversed," Bindbeutel said.

The Attorney General fraud hotline number is 1-800-392-8222.

 

More News

Grid
List
JEFFERSON CITY - Friday was the anniversary of the Columbine shooting, and on Saturday, members of the Jefferson City community... More >>
1 hour ago Saturday, April 21 2018 Apr 21, 2018 Saturday, April 21, 2018 10:03:00 PM CDT April 21, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R- Harrisonville announced the winner of her annual congressional art competition Saturday afternoon. ... More >>
7 hours ago Saturday, April 21 2018 Apr 21, 2018 Saturday, April 21, 2018 4:29:00 PM CDT April 21, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Community members took laps around the MizzouRec Saturday to raise money for Relay For Life of Mizzou’s main event,... More >>
8 hours ago Saturday, April 21 2018 Apr 21, 2018 Saturday, April 21, 2018 3:14:00 PM CDT April 21, 2018 in News
LAKE OZARK - For the past five years, Osage Heritage Elementary has hosted a Color Run to raise funds for... More >>
10 hours ago Saturday, April 21 2018 Apr 21, 2018 Saturday, April 21, 2018 1:29:00 PM CDT April 21, 2018 in News
CLAYTON (AP) — A former St. Louis-area teacher will be on five years of probation for having sex with a... More >>
14 hours ago Saturday, April 21 2018 Apr 21, 2018 Saturday, April 21, 2018 8:43:59 AM CDT April 21, 2018 in News
UNIVERSITY CITY (AP) — A former St. Louis-area day care teaching assistant has been found guilty of molesting a 5-year-old... More >>
14 hours ago Saturday, April 21 2018 Apr 21, 2018 Saturday, April 21, 2018 8:40:09 AM CDT April 21, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY -- Firefighters responded to a structure fire in the 100 block of E. Ashley St. at 11:08 p.m.... More >>
17 hours ago Saturday, April 21 2018 Apr 21, 2018 Saturday, April 21, 2018 6:27:00 AM CDT April 21, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri legislators approved numerous changes Thursday to local elections, including allowing voters to request absentee ballots... More >>
18 hours ago Saturday, April 21 2018 Apr 21, 2018 Saturday, April 21, 2018 5:27:13 AM CDT April 21, 2018 in News
MILLER COUNTY - Casey Shoemate, a 26-year-old Miller County sheriff's deputy, died Friday night after colliding head-on with another vehicle... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 10:05:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA- Retailer Sears will close its Columbia Mall store this summer because the location has become unprofitable. Sears Director... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 8:46:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA- A local non-profit organization, Columbia Access Television, hosted a 24-hour film contest that started Friday at 5:30 pm. ... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 7:13:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
LAKE OZARK - Community members are coming together to help a family who lost their children in a fire get... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 7:10:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA – As more and more fraternities face misconduct charges across the nation, the Greek community of MU is looking... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 6:13:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS - Gov. Eric Greitens is remaining defiant in the face of a new felony charge. On... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 5:45:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Children filled school gymnasiums across Columbia for the second day of the Unbound Book Festival. The festival showcases... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 3:42:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - April 20 marks the day of the Columbine school shooting, which claimed 13 lives. The Columbia Missouri... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 3:26:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - A potential fire station project on an annexed lot in southwest Columbia could lead to quicker response times... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 3:21:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - After the deadly fire in Lake Ozark, officials from the Division of Fire Safety are working to... More >>
1 day ago Friday, April 20 2018 Apr 20, 2018 Friday, April 20, 2018 3:01:00 PM CDT April 20, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 59°
12am 57°
1am 55°
2am 55°
3am 53°