On the twelfth day of Christmas the fraudster said to me, “Your grandchild is in jail”. Ho! Ho! Ho! Good news, your grandkid isn't really with the po po!

posted by Mike Burke on Monday, December 20, 2021 in SHAZAM Blog

From coast to coast, the grandparent scam of “your grandchild is in jail and needs bond money” has been around for years. Since 2008, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has been receiving reports of this criminal activity, but now the stakes are even higher and more dangerous. Please share this information with your accountholders and community.

How it works
In the first decade of this scam, the fraudsters’ tactic was relatively simple. Posing as one of the  grandchildren, the fraudster calls the elderly victim(s) claiming they’d been arrested and needed bond money to get out of jail. The fraudster would then request between $500–$1,500 in gift cards to pay for their bond. There was a variety of bogus reasons for the arrest; possession of a controlled substance, public intoxication, DWI/OWI and/or minor in possession of alcohol, just to name a few.

Why it works
I often get asked, “Why would a logical grandparent fall victim to this scam?” The answer, yet simple, is complex. 

Most of us think and react logically, but the fraudsters are trained experts in putting their victims under the “ether”. The ether is the state of mind when we no longer react logically, but instead on emotion. Some of the emotions taking us out of the logical world into the ether are urgency and fear. Ether: I must react immediately to get my grandchild out of jail.

Higher stakes, more danger
Since COVID, there’s been a spike in these victimizations, and the monetary loss and danger of these fraudulent in-person encounters has escalated. Remember, fraudsters are criminals of opportunity. 

COVID diminished contact with loved ones, in turn opening the door for fraudsters to exploit the situation. Within the last six months, I’ve seen an uptick in fraudsters taking the grandparent scam to the next level.

Currently, fraudsters are contacting elderly victims claiming to be the grandchild, or the attorney for the grandchild, and fictitiously stating there’s been an arrest for a criminal activity. Often the fictitious crime is driving while impaired (DWI/OWI) and causing an accident involving injury to occupants in the other vehicle. The fabricated bond has now increased to $5,000–$15,000. 

In-person money collection from a fake bondsman is also on the rise throughout the United States. It’s extremely dangerous when a fraudster comes face-to-face with a victim. Often the initial bond is $5,000. The next day, if the initial bond is paid, the fraudster contacts the grandparent saying a vehicle accident occupant has died. Now, a new charge of vehicle homicide has been added and another $10,000 bond has been set. 

This cycle can be endless.

Please help us stop elder fraud. Read our past 2-part series: If you pay, they will continue to prey! Feel free to share this information with your family, friends and community.

Be safe and happy holidays from SHAZAM!

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