The Phone Call

I didn’t recognize the voice when I picked up the phone and heard “Hey grandpa!” 

Having just become a grandparent, I figured it was one of my friends calling to congratulate me. But I wasn’t sure which one. So I continued to talk, hoping i would be able to figure it out without the embarassment of having to say “who is this?”

I quickly realized it wasn’t a friend calling. It was supposedly my grandson. Not a bad feat for a kid who isn’t old enough to talk. He’s obviously developing faster than I expected. I told the caller they had a wrong number.

Then it happened again. “Hey grandpa!” This time a light clicked on in my brain. This wasn’t a wrong number. 

The conversation was really short this time. “Do you know who this is?” “Yes, I replied, it’s my grandson. You just said that.”

That’s when he hung up. Which saddened me. I was looking forward to whatever form this scam was going to take. Much to my wife’s disgust, I take great delight in egging scammers on. I figure I can have free entertainment, and if they are talking to me they aren’t talking to somone who might be more gullible.

The grandchild in trouble scam has been around for decades. Someone calls an elderly person, claiming to be their grandchild. They have been traveling and their wallet has been stolen, can grandpa wire some cash in this emergency. And it is embarrassing, so please don’t tell the parents.

Or perhaps a party got a little out of control. There are damages that need to be covered, perhaps a fine. The police are involved, but cash will solve the problem. But it is embarrassing, so please grandpa, don’t tell my parents. And I’ll pay you back when I get home.

There are probably other variations. The common element is a request for money and a desire to keep things private. 

I wonder how profitable this scam is. Given that it has been around for years, it must work at least some of the time. But you would think it must be a very low percentage.

These are cold calls. How many are actually answered by people who are grandparents? What subset of those wouldn’t be able to quickly determine that the call was not actually being made by their grandson or granddaughter? Old people are smarter than you think.

Then again, the more sophisticated scammers do research and make targeted calls. They can supposedly be very convincing. Even in those cases, I am surprised people wouldn’t just say no to the request for money. My generation might suggest the grandchild take respnsibility for their mistakes. (Or at the very least we would ask some questions a scammer would not be able to glean from online sources.)

What this scam doesthough is make it tougher for my grandchildren should they ever get into difficulties in a foreign country. Twenty years from now, when the phone rings and a voice says “Hi grandpa! I need your help!” I’m probably just going to hang up.

I won’t win the grandfather of the year award by doing that. But I won’t lose my money to scammers either.

2 comments

  1. Makes a good argument for keeping one’s personal life out of the internet!

    However, my 98-year-old mother, who has NEVER been on the internet, received such a call many years ago, from someone pretending to be her grandson’s lawyer (in Montreal) seeking bail money. Given that said grandson is a trucker, it was entirely plausible that he could be in Montreal (he resides in New Brunswick, as did she at the time). But a few questions from ol’ granny exposed the scammer. But it does make one wonder how the scammer got the info?

    1. I suspect a lot of such scam calls are cold calls – seniors are more likely to be home in the daytime and answer the phone.

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