I’ve mentioned the ‘grandparent scam’ before but a recent event convinced me that I can’t talk too much about how this particular scam works

A grandparent scam is when crooks  Scammers target people with phone calls, emails, or Facebook messages saying that a loved one is in trouble.

Sometimes, they’ll claim legal trouble. A loved one needs money for bail or an attorney or to pay some type of fine. Other times, the loved one is injured. Money is needed to pay for hospital bills or an ambulance ride home. Whatever the trouble, it’s always urgent and the money is needed immediately.

If the communication is by phone, you’re not going to be allowed to speak to the loved one very long, if at all. Sometimes the victim only gets to hear “Grandma!” on the other end.  Then the victim will say, “Is that you Billy?” and give the scammer a name to use.

At that point, you usually get to speak to someone pretending to be a doctor or a lawyer or a law enforcement official.

The crooks won’t always pretend to be a grandchild. But they often choose that angle to ensure their victims are senior citizens.

Man Conned Out of $12,000

Here’s a recent case that happened in a small town in Southern Ohio.

A woman called a 75-year-old man and said she was his daughter-in-law. She claimed she was at fault in a traffic accident and had been arrested.

Then she put a man claiming to be her attorney on the line. The fake attorney told the worried man he could prevent the daughter-in-law’s mugshot from going public and get her out of jail. But first, he needed $12,000.

Now, most of these scams operate entirely over the phone or online. They will instruct you to buy gift cards or wire money to them. In this case, someone actually showed up in person to rip the poor guy off.

The ‘attorney’ told the man he’d send a court employee around in a U-Haul truck to pick up the cash. The truck was allegedly intended to conceal the fact that the man was working for the court.

A scammer then showed up at his door and picked up the cash.

Fear Factor

These crooks are counting on fear to override your common sense. They use your concern for loved ones to make you act before you have time to think about it. Don’t fall for it.

There’s no legal situation where they can’t wait a little bit for the money. Once bond is set, you can bail someone out at any time. Step back and take a few breaths to think the situation over.

Don’t Give Them Money

That’s not the way the legal system works. No law enforcement agency will ever call you and send someone by to pick up money. Legitimate attorneys don’t ask to be paid in gift cards or wire transfers.

If someone calls you claiming a loved one has been arrested or is in the hospital. Ask for the name of the arresting agency or hospital. Look the place up yourself and call them to verify the information.  Never give out the name of the loved one. Always try to get in touch with the person they claim is in trouble.

Consider instituting a secret family code word or security question that only close family members use to verify there’s actually an emergency situation. If someone says they are your grandchild or daughter-in-law, ask for the code.

Because if you’re really Billy, you’ll surely know the name of Uncle Fred’s first wife or Aunt Helen’s parakeet.