‘Grandson Scam’ Targets Your Emotions, Loved Ones

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A Chicago woman trying to help her grandson instead found herself in the middle of a scam. It has caused heartache and fear in her family, so she sat down with CBS 2’s Dave Savini to tell her story as a warning to others.

Sandee Feldman has traveled the world as an amateur photographer with a careful eye for detail. However, this quick-witted grandmother was blindsided by an emergency phone call from her grandson. He said he was calling from the U.S. Embassy in Spain, and was in need of some help because of legal trouble.

“I had told my grandson that if he ever needed me, I would be there for him,” said Feldman who said the voice on the phone sounded like her grandson and he had personal information.

“He used his name,” said Feldman. “He used my nickname. I mean, I just bought into it.”

It was not her grandson. Feldman fell victim to a crime that is sweeping the nation in epic numbers — it is called the “Grandson Scam”, and it begins with a frantic phone call from a supposed grandchild.

An emotional Feldman said the con-men prey on your emotions and concerns for your grandchild, then further rope you in when they use personal details of your, and your grandson’s lives. In her case, Feldman said aside from her nickname and her grandson’s name, the caller knew where he was attending college.

“They have the personal information,” said Feldman who believes her e-mails with her grandson may have been hacked to obtain these details.

This type of scam is growing according to Steve Baker from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “We’ve got a really big problem.”

Baker said the grandson scam involves con-men hacking into e-mails and trolling social network sites looking for very personal information. They then use it to get their victims to wire cash. The thief then poses as the grandson to pick up the money. It is often a very organized ring committing this type of crime and it is very difficult for law enforcement to catch these criminals.

The list of victims, who likely will never see their money again, is big. The Chicago FTC office received 5,000 cases last year alone. However, that is believed to be a tiny fraction of total victims. Baker reveals everybody should check their social media privacy settings and Google themselves to see what personal information is obtainable. He also warns that requests for money to be wired is typically a scam and that money is usually not recoverable.

Feldman wired $2,800 and believes that money is gone.

“All the grandparents that I spoke to, that I’ve told, they stop for a minute and they say, ‘I would have done the same thing’,” said Feldman.

“Most people think this only happens to the dumb and the senile; ‘wouldn’t happen to me, I can tell’,” said Baker. “That is not true.”

More from 2 Investigators
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  • DG

    Why didn’t she call her Grandson first to see if it was true? Or call her grandson’s parents first? There are a lot of things that don’t make sense here.

    • Roberta Waker

      Probably because when you get a frantic call from a loved one that needs money; you don’t always think of things like that. You panic. That is what these thieves rely on; that you will NOT think logically. Everything is done very quickly so you don’t usually have a chance to think and that’s why they are successful. Hope these people get caught and hung out to dry.

      • Bonnie

        I wanted to make a copy of this fine article for my mom, but the site will not print pass the first paragraph. Please resend this article to me in full.
        Thank you

    • regina Chaskin

      This also happened to me three days ago. When your emotions take over you dont think in a logical way. Do not be critical of Mrs. Feldman.
      My grandson called me saying he was in a Canadian jail due to a car wreck and consequently broke his nose..If his mother knew about this there was no tellinng what she would do. I was given an address to send $2,800, an address in Madrid Spain.. I was instructed to go to a WalMart and have the $ sent via Western Union.. In as much as I am a disabeled 81 year old woman ,I was unable to get to a Walmart, Obviously, the money was not sent..
      Dont be critical if anyone falls for something likes this. It is paniky receiving a call such as this. The voice was exactly like that of my grandsons.,Shortly afterword I spoke to my grandson and realized this was a scam. This guy had the chutzpah to call again yeterday asking why I have not sent the money since he was still in jail in Canada..

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  • cutie

    what is this world coming to these people should learn the meaning of work because we all need to do it that way they would not have to scam the elderly

  • suspicious mind

    Another group of losers with too much time on their hands preying on the elderly. How sad! Although I agree with the commenter above she should have looked more into it before giving all this info over the phone. I had a scam artist try something on myself. They were posing as a rep from my credit card company. They gave me an offer of low priced magazine subsriptions, they said they needed my credit card number in order to process this. I informed them I would not be giving that info over the phone. I also told her she should already have that info if this was true. The girl actually said she was putting her “manager” on the phone. I proceded to tell him the same thing. He became hostile when he realized he was getting nowhere with me. I hung up on him. The whole thing was strange. Then the phone rang two weeks later with the same scam different person. As soon as I realized it was the same thing I stopped her in her tracks . I told her I knew what this was about and to not even bother. They never called again. I’m a bit of a news junkie so my ears are always perked with stories like this. I’m only writing this to let others know this is another example of a scam. Don’t give any personal info over the phone to anyone.

  • Law Lady

    Last summer my Mother, who is in her 80’s, received a frantic phone call from a man stating that my cousin Billy was in critical condition in a hospital in Canada and needed $2,000 immediately for an operation to save his life. She called me, as I am her Power of Attorney, and asked me to send the money immediately. My first call was to my cousin, who was alive and well and a bit annoyed at being pulled out of a business meeting in Ohio. My next call was to the police.
    Aside from the money, the worst scars are from the emotional trauma. My Mom cried for days, was confused, and kept calling to ask if he survived the operation. This is horrible, to sc are an elderly person in frail mental and physical health, for greed. My heart goes out to anyone who has experienced this.

  • Curious

    Don’t mean to sound insensitive but my grandmother would know whether or not she was actually speaking wtih me no matter what personal info she was given. I’m not quite sure I understand how someone claiming to be of close relation to you and you not know your speaking to a complete stranger? Aside from the personal details wouldn’t you know their voice?

  • catfishpoboy

    Someone tried to do this to my grandpa, but he asked the caller a question he knew that only I would know. I’m not sure I’d call this lady “quick witted.” If she had been, this wouldn’t have happened.

  • Chris in Scottsdale

    I was actually approached by someone online via FB messenger on my friend Tim’s account, saying that he was in the UK and strapped for cash. Given that I’m at an age where South Park cultural references make us giggle, We often refer to Tim as “Timmy!”

    The key for me was when I asked “Timmy” what he needed, and pressed for verification because I was dubious, the person responded that “It’s me, Timmy”… and Tim would NEVER refer to himself in the third person as such.

    These people can be slick. I’m not saying that people should necessarily fall prey to their scam, but they make an effort to be as clever as possible.

  • TH

    Same thing happened to my husband…right after paperwork went through Springfiled to transfer a car from his grandma to him. Otherwise they don;t have much paperwork wise to do with each other. They pretanded to be him, calling his grandma asking for money that he is in England and in trouble…luckily she was wise and realized the voice did not sound right and hung up.

  • JeanLulie

    JL – NY This happened to me- But thanks to Western Union I got my $7000. back.They put a hold on the money and returned all including their charges. I thought I was speaking to my grandson in jail in Canada. Then they put a police officer on who exsplained what I had to do.Western Union insisted I call my daughter. She in turn called my grandson at college. He was at lunch and not in jail. Bless WesternUnion. I think I learned a lesson.

  • JOE

    There’s a sucker born every minute…Scams like this will never end as long as they are dummies outhere… It does not matter how many times we tell people about it..they still fall the scams…

  • JOE

    You do the numbers…If you call 100 people and get 1 person to send you $2800 you’ve won…Now imagine calling 5000 people with a boiler room operation? Millions?

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