The Heartbreaking New Way Online Scammers Are Tricking Grandparents Out Of Cash

Retired victim Franc Stratton says he fell for the ruse “because of love.”

December 04, 2018
Franc Stratton [CBS News/screenshot]

Franc Stratton [CBS News/screenshot]

Franc Stratton [CBS News/screenshot]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Scammers have resorted to posing as grandchildren or other relatives in trouble in order to bilk older Americans out of their money — on average $9,000 per victim, totaling around $41 million so far this year.

Franc Stratton, a former Air Force intelligence expert and retired cybersecurity programmer, couldn’t believe he was among those conned by the latest online fraud tactic.

"I'm the last person, I thought, [who] would ever fall for a scam like this," he told CBS News of receiving a disturbing phone call from a stranger last April.

"I hear, 'Don't be afraid, but I'm the public defender from Austin, Texas. They have put your grandson in jail after a wreck, and he has a DUI offense,'” Stratton recalled.

"I hear, 'Don't be afraid, but I'm the public defender from Austin, Texas. They have put your grandson in jail after a wreck, and he has a DUI offense,'” Stratton recalled.

The man on the other end of the line told Stratton that overnighting $8,500 in cash to an address in Austin would be enough for his grandson to make bail. Stratton was especially susceptible to the ploy since he had sent emergency money to a relative in the past, and he spoke briefly with who he thought was his injured-sounding grandchild on the line.

"They had it so well-scripted. They knew everything about my grandson. They knew everything about me,” he said. "I wrote a check out, and [the bank] gave me $8,500 cash in hundreds.”

After Stratton sent the package to Texas from Tennessee, he and his spouse came to a realization together. "My wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘Scam,’” he said. "I'm a security person. And that's what really frustrates me, because I fell for it. Because of love.”

Luckily, the grandpa was able to call FedEx in time for agents to stop delivery of the package and return the cash to him.

The Federal Trade Commission warns heartless scammers are increasingly targeting those 70 and over and using social media as a convenient tool to dig up facts about elderly users’ families and backgrounds.

"Grandparents really care about their grandchildren,” explained FTC Associate Director, Division of Consumer Response and Operations, Monica Vaca. “The grandchildren sound like they're in terrible distress. They're crying, they're saying that they've been injured frequently and they’re begging their grandparent to help them.”

The Federal Trade Commission recommends remaining vigilant about what information you post on social-media sites. And if you ever receive a call from a stranger about sending money for someone in sudden need, always verify there's a real problem first with the person in question or other family and friends.

Read more: CBS News

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