Help me, Grandma
Most of the times my telephone rings, it turns out to be someone telling me they are returning a call, at my request, for information about a back brace. Well, I know I made no such request so I simply hang up on them. Often it is a cheerful woman from a credit card company telling me there is no problem with my account, I thank her politely and hang up. In the past, she has managed to slip in the information that this is my final opportunity to take advantage of an offer to lower my interest rate. Since I seldom use the account and always pay the full balance promptly when the bill comes, I don’t care about a lower interest rate. I’ve learned to ignore the offer. I do wonder about that mythical “last chance” however; she’s been telling me that for several years.
The latest unwanted phone call was from what sounded like a very upset young man, perhaps in his late teens or early 20s. He called me “Grandma” and told me a fairly complicated tale about a friend’s funeral, an auto accident and some serious charges. He needed me to talk to the attorney who had been appointed for him. Even if I hadn’t heard the warning about the “Grandma” scam, I would have been suspicious. My grandsons are a little older than this guy seemed to be. He never identified himself by name, and when I asked where he was being held, he answered only, “Madison.” I realized there are about a dozen towns and cities in the U.S. named Madison and my bright grandsons, even if the scenario were true and they were upset, would be very clear as to which Madison they were in at the time. After telling me they were giving him no more time to talk to me and urging me to call the attorney, giving me the number, he hung up.
One of my grandsons is an attorney and they have an uncle who is an attorney. If either of them were in trouble, they would call their parents first and me last. I did not make the call. After about a half hour, my phone rang again. The very business-like and somber-sounding voice identified itself as the “appointed attorney” and asked if I had been advised of the situation. When I answered that the “grandson” had not identified himself to me, I was told he was my oldest grandson. (Still no name.) When I said my oldest grandson was an attorney and it was highly doubtful he would consult me in such a situation, the phone call abruptly ended.
One of the reasons the scam didn’t work on me was because I am highly suspicious, and not given to playing guessing games with people who call me. “I bet you can’t guess who this is,” doesn’t set me to rattling off a string of names in an attempt to identify the caller. I expect them to identify themselves either by name or some reference we both understand. This, of course, is what the scammer is hoping for– that I will say. “Willy, is that you?” Thus giving him a name he can use to further convince me he is indeed my grandson.
Oddly enough, this same scam was worked on my grandsons’ other grandmother a few years ago, (only with a different grandson of hers, not related to me) and the fiction was apparently allowed to go further before it was discovered to be a hoax. According to the pattern, the grandson refuses to contact his parents for a number of reasons. Either he’s in the doghouse already, he’s too ashamed, or scared, he wasn’t supposed to be where he was at the time of the “accident” or some other made-up excuse. I can’t imagine my grandsons not being able to go to their parents in a time of trouble. It just wouldn’t happen.
I will say this much for the whole experience, even though I recognized it for a scam almost at once, it was still troubling. It is disturbing to think of our grandchildren far from home and in trouble with no one to ask for help or advice. It’s easy to see why grandparents fall for the deception so easily, and why so many have been taken in to the point where they are bilked of fairly large amounts of money before they learn the truth. And yes, even after I was sure my grandson was not in any trouble far from home, I phoned his dad just to make sure. Well, so I’m a softy. I’m entitled. After all– I’m a grandma.