Beware: “Fake Grandkids” Scams

So many grandkids—different names, different interests, different voices—who has the time to keep track of all that? A new, impressively scummy outfit of swindlers has been taking advantage of the confusion and has been calling old people and pretending to be their grandchildren. Yup. Welcome to America.

As one woman explained to MSN, “I just got a call from someone claiming to be my granddaughter. She said she was in Montreal and had been in a car accident. She said her credit card wasn't working in Canada. She asked me if I could send her $4,000 by Western Union so she could get her car fixed and get home. She promised to pay it back as soon as she could. I asked her where her husband was, and she said he didn't go with her. She didn't want to tell him she'd been in an accident. When I asked if her parents knew about it, she said she didn't want to tell them yet either. I said I didn't have $4,000 but could send her $1,000. She said that would be OK.”

Luckily the Western Union clerk told her that Montreal is a haven for scammers of this sort (who knew?), and the woman realized that this was not, in fact, a biological grandchild. Or even a grandchild at all. It was a Canadian ne’er-do-well eager for easy senior citizen cash.

So now you know. If someone claims to be a long lost grandchild—or any other mysterious family member in need of help—due diligence is called for… don’t just wire him or her $4,000 without thinking first.

The more we think about it, though, something does not add up here. The grandmother who was almost conned out of her dough is: a) gullible enough to believe the girl's story at face value, without questioning which granddaughter it was b) only becomes suspicious after a Western Union clerk warns her and yet is c) savvy enough to immediately e-mail a personal finance reporter about all of this?

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