'Grandparents scam' on the rise

Know the red flags, questions to ask when asked for money


The infamous "grandparents scam" or the "emergency scam" is on the rise.  And experts warn if you don't know the red flags, you could become a victim.  Eleanor Reimer knows all too well.

"I got a phone call from someone who said he was my grandson, sounded exactly like him and said he was in Mexico and had some trouble and needed some money," she said.

So she went to the post office with $5,800 in cash.  She prepared an express mail envelope and the postal worker at the counter gave her advice.

"He looked at me, you make sure you call before you send this," she said.

Reimer tried to call her family but didn't get an answer.  Because she was told time was of the essence, she sent the package.

"The victim was very sweet and worried about her grandson's well-being and making sure he got home safely," said US Postal Inspector, Michelle Brooks.

But, it was all a scam.  Hours later, Reimer learned her grandson was not in trouble.

"I felt like I was a real idiot when I found out," she admitted.

She then went to police.  US Postal Inspectors used her tracking number and were able to intercept the package before delivery.

"We were glad to help her get the money back," said Brooks.

Reimer's good fortune comes with a warning.

"Before you send any cash to anyone make sure you verify the story.  Assume it is a scam until you know better," warned Brooks.

According to recent FBI reports, the "Grandparent Scam" has been around since 2008, but there has been a surge recently.

So here's what you do:   The Better Business Bureau says if a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, saying something like, 'I've been arrested" or "I've been mugged" or "I'm in the hospital," don't give any information before confirming it really is your grandchild.

And, if a caller says "It's me, Grandma!" Don't respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is.  One easy way to confirm the identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know - such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name.

To read more advice from the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida, click here.