The Grandparents Scam: Preying on Love and Fear

Grandparents hold a special place within families, showering their grandchildren with limitless love and care. Tragically, this bond has become the target of countless scammers who have over the years perfected the so-called grandparents scam.


Praying on the elderly, especially those with families and grandchildren, is nothing new, but scammers are always finding new deceptive ways to trick these trustworthy grandparents. That’s why we all need to educate ourselves and the older members of our families about this scam, how it works, and how to stay protected.

The Heart of the Deception

The grandparent scam is unfortunately chillingly simple and that’s why scammers use it as often as they do. It doesn’t require any hacking or elaborate ruses, but instead just emotional manipulation. And since there is a strong bond and unconditional love between most grandparents and their children, this scam is unfortunately often successful.


It almost always starts with a made-up crisis that is designed to cause panic. It might be a serious car crash that requires immediate expensive medical care, getting arrested and asking for bail money, or a sudden illness while traveling with no access to funds. Basically, any scenario that could play on a grandparent’s deepest fears. And of course, the crisis is always urgent and requires immediate financial help. 


As the cherry on top, there’s usually that infamous sentence, “Please don’t tell mom and dad.” This prevents the unsuspecting victim from contacting the people who could expose the scam while also tapping into the natural protectiveness most grandparents usually have, making them believe they’re protecting their loving grandchild from getting into further trouble. 

Exploiting Emotions

At the heart of the grandparents scam is the scammer’s ability to exploit emotions, and you can be sure that these con men and women are masters of social engineering. They know how to target a grandparent’s deepest fears and anxieties and make them bypass any logic by tapping into their instinct to protect their loved ones. 


So how does it all work?


  • The weapons of manipulation. Everyone has at one time or another thrown caution to the wind because of strong emotions. And these scammers use fear, worry, and protectiveness to trigger overwhelming concern.
  • Believable disguises. Thanks to evolving technology, scammers can create voice messages or even videos that sound and look as if the victim’s grandchild is in danger. And since older generations aren’t usually familiar with technologies such as voice cloning and deepfaking, they’re more likely to believe the call they received from the scammer really is coming from their grandchild.
  • The social media scam. Sometimes, the scammers don’t even have to do too much work to convince a victim they’re talking to their grandchild. All they have to do is create a social media profile using the grandchild’s name and picture and send a message asking for help and money. 
  • Creating pressure and urgency. This scam is always designed in such a way as to make the victim send money right away because the situation is urgent. Sentences like “I need surgery right now” or “They’re going to arrest me if I don’t have bail money” are all too common.


Unfortunately, these scammers are relentless. They research and adapt, exploiting new technology and communication channels. If you want to protect yourself and your loved ones, it’s crucial to stay up-to-date on the latest technological advancements. 

Why Are Older Adults Targeted?

While anyone can fall victim to this scam, there’s a reason why it’s so often called “the grandparents scam”. The elderly are alarmingly susceptible due to a combination of factors that make them the perfect targets for these criminals.


Age-related factors are unfortunately at fault here. Cognitive changes that happen over time, even the most subtle shifts, can greatly affect judgment and decision-making, especially under highly stressful situations. 

There’s also the technological gap most senior citizens have. Let’s face it, most of these grandparents don’t know how to work a computer or smartphone properly so it’s no wonder they don’t keep up with the latest scams and all the ways technology is used to con people out of their money.


When all of these factors are combined, grandparents are sadly a prime target for scammers. 

Beyond the Financial Impact

The most glaring consequence of the grandparents scam is the financial impact, which is in some cases even more devastating than with other scams. This is because these victims usually have to dip into their nest eggs or retirement savings to help out their “grandchildren”, and are left with little to no money and no way to earn more. But it goes beyond that.


This type of scam can lead to intense shame and embarrassment, long-term anxiety, and even broken trust within a family. A lot of the time, grandparents who fall victim to this scam can distance themselves from their grandchildren and be suspicious of every future interaction with them.


Additionally, the emotional distress they went through, coupled with the feeling of betrayal, can lead to lingering anxiety, making it difficult to relax and feel safe. This impacts overall well-being and quality of life.

Final Thoughts

The love between generations is a precious thing and the bond between grandparents and their grandchildren is one of the most beautiful things in the world. It’s up to us to protect this bond from all the scammers who are trying to exploit it. Through awareness, communication, and vigilance, we can disrupt the grandparents scam and protect the trustworthy people it targets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *