Scammers Posing As Grandchildren To Target Older Adults

Eugene Jones says family is one of the most important things in the world to him.

"Family is family. The most important thing in the world after God," Jones said.

So Jones didn't think twice when he received a panicked call from his grandson, who said he was in a Mexican jail cell after attending a funeral there, and needed money immediately to get out. As soon as he ended the phone call, Jones withdrew $3,000 and drove to a Springs Safeway to wire the funds.

But the money never went to his grandson.

Instead, the money went to Quebec, Canada, right into the hands of scam artists. These scammers have been making their money by preying upon numerous people just like Jones: older adults with a deep love for their families.

Called the "Grandparent Scam," it works like this: crooks call people over the age of 65 posing as their grandchild. The scammer would tell their "grandparent" that they were in trouble and needed money immediately.

A convicted conman who made upwards of $10,000 a day off this scam described a typical call to CBS:

"You just say, 'Hey, how are you, hi grandma, hi grandpa... I'm in a little bit of trouble right now. If I tell you, just keep it between us, I'm on vacation, but I got into a little accident, and I was arrested for a DUI.' You tell them, 'Things got out of control, and I need you to send me the money."

On average, the scammer said it worked on about one in 50 calls.

These criminals are so convincing, they don't give victims like Jones any time to think things through. And for Jones, the premise behind the scam wasn't all that far-fetched--Jones said his brother once got in trouble in Mexico. But in this case, Jones' grandson was nowhere near Mexico--he wasn't even out of the country.

"It's an expensive lesson, but God will take care of it," Jones told 11 News.

If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of one of these calls, 11 News Call for Action investigator Betty Sexton advising calling another relative immediately after hanging up, to verify the information. Springs police said Monday that a woman kept herself from falling victim to the same scam that targeted Jones by doing exactly that.

Sexton also advises asking the scammers a question that only family would know, to see if they really are who they say they are.

Safeway told 11 News that their employees are trained to help spot cases like this one, and though they can't catch every single one are able to prevent about five of these scams every week.