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Warning: New Twist On Grandparent Scam

April 23, 2014, 10:05 PM by Angela Kennecke

Warning: New Twist On Grandparent Scam

Every year senior citizens are robbed of $3 billion in financial scams. One of the most profitable is the grandparent scam.

There's an update on the latest tactics the scammers are using to con grandparents.

It all starts with a ring and familiar words from the other end of the line.

"And they said, 'Hello Grandma,'" Carol Welbig said.

To 71-year-old Carol Welbig, it sure sounded like her 20-year-old granddaughter. The familiar voice proceeded to tell her she'd been pulled over by the highway patrol on I-90. 

"She said, 'Grandma, I'm in Rapid City; and I said Rapid City? How can you be in Rapid City? You were just here last night,'" Welbig said.

Then the caller said her friend had been driving drunk and was caught with drugs.

"'You know grandma, they're saying I have to stay here 20 days if I don't have bail money,'" Welbig said.

A big part of the grandparent scam is creating urgency and asking for secrecy.

"'And don't tell anybody; don't tell anybody--not even grandpa. Don't tell grandpa,'" Welbig said.

But that's when something in the story didn't add up for Welbig. 

"And I said, 'Why?' 'Well, they'd be mud.' And that was my tipoff. And I thought, 'who would say mud instead of mad?'" 

Welbig told the caller to give her an hour and after she hung up called her granddaughter to confirm she was indeed home. But there was something in the story that almost hooked her.

"Rapid City--Oh yeah we do go out there a lot. That's what kind of bothered me and I thought, 'Oh, wait,'" Welbig said.

"It's all the same mode and the same methods to get cash from people; but it's just a little different take on the location,” Jessie Schmidt of the Better Business Bureau said.

Fortunately Welbig didn't fall for it, but one out of 50 grandparents targeted will and the scammers can make as much as $10,000 a day off them. The suspects are hard to catch because they're operating outside the U.S. If you get a call like this, ask a question that only your grandchild would know the answer to, like the name of your pet and don't keep the call a secret, even though you may be begged to do so.

More from AARP Fraud Watch Network on the grandparent scam.

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