You should never underestimate how much your grandparents love you. Mine love me a lot, enough to cloud their otherwise impeccable judgment when it comes to suspicious phone calls.
You’ve probably heard this story before. An elderly grandparent gets a call from their grandchild, lamenting that they’ve just been in a horrible accident. Their nose is broken, and they’ve got half a dozen stitches in their mouth. So it's no wonder they sound so strange.
But the important thing is they need money. There’s hospital bills or a bail bond to pay, and they’re desperate. Oh, and don’t tell anyone else in the family, it’s just too embarrassing.
The last thing I expected when I returned a missed call from my grandmother last week was to hear her panicked voice asking if I was out of the hospital yet and if I still needed the $6,700 she had just taken out of the bank for me. It was easy enough to put things together. It was a scam.
Generally speaking, my grandparents, both nearly 80, are fairly tech savvy for their age. But like many senior citizens these days, they’ve been plagued with a never ending stream of unsolicited phone calls promising to expand their Medicare, cancel their student loans or warn them about the expiration of their extended warranties.
My grandfather likes to make sport of these would-be scammers sometimes, leading them along, pretending to follow their instructions and then mocking them after sufficiently wasting their time.
But all that went out the window when, for a few hours, they thought there was a chance their grandson might be in trouble.
It started with a call from an impersonator, who baited my name out of my grandmother by saying he was “her grandson” before proceeding to lay out a fake story about a car accident. My grandmother, so overwhelmed by the idea I might be hurt, started crying on the spot.
It was a second call, this one from a “lawyer,” that really tried to sell the lie. A woman claimed that I was in jail because even though the other driver ran a red light, I’d been on my phone and was unjustly taking the blame.
But there was still an out. If my grandparents would just send some money to a legal aid group in Georgia, this woman would be able to get me out of the charges and win it all back and more in court. It was important they didn’t tell anyone though, because if it got “leaked” online, then my life would be ruined.
My grandfather grew suspicious when she started laying out the best way to send the money though, that being to buy several letter envelopes, a magazine and a manila envelope to convolutedly layer around money before shipping it cross-country.
As my grandmother rushed to the bank and store, despite my grandfather’s protests, he took to the internet and found plenty of documentation about this particular grift. From there, a simple call to my cellphone was enough to set things straight, though my grandmother still begged me to FaceTime her just so she could see my face and know for sure I was alright, which I happily obliged.
Furious at the whole ordeal, I asked for the number to give my “lawyer” a call. Claiming to be my father, I talked with her a good 10 minutes before revealing who I really was and managed to leave her with a few choice words before being hung up on.
It sickened me to think someone would put my grandparents through that just to make a quick buck, but at the end of the day I’m just glad we caught on in time. My grandfather and I agreed our biggest regret was not putting more effort into getting them back, like calling to ask how $67,000 (an extra “zero” added to the amount asked for) was supposed to fit in such a small envelope.