Most grandparents would do anything for their children and grandchildren, and scammers take advantage of these family bonds. Imposters exploit seniors and their love for their families by using false threats and a person posing as their grandchild to trick the grandparent into sending money quickly.

How the Imposter Family Member Scam Works

Here is the general strategy when scammers use this method to steal money from seniors:

A grandparent receives a phone call from a person claiming to be their grandchild. The scammer speaks frantically and says they are in trouble because of an arrest, robbery or accident.

Their goal is to use as much urgency and drama as possible to make the grandparent act quickly to help. Unfortunately, scammers often add in details about the family based on information gathered through the grandchild’s social media accounts.

Once the scammer makes the story as plausible as possible, they hand the phone to another scammer who is posing as a police officer, doctor or lawyer and backs up the story. Then the imposter grandchild begs the senior to send money right away ─ and don’t tell mom or dad.

Warning Signs of the Imposter Family Scam

Usually, this fraud is committed over the phone. But scammers may also use similar strategies via email or text message. These professional scammers can also use technology to make the caller ID look legitimate.

Here are a few warning signs to help you identify this scam:

  • The “grandchild” on the other end of the phone asks for money immediately and has specific instructions about how it should be sent: wiring money, prepaid card, gift card, etc.
  • Often, these calls happen late at night because the scammers are trying to talk to the senior when they are tired and may be confused more easily.

If these phone calls come through:

  • Never share any personal information over the phone. For example, you might hear the scammer say, “It’s me, grandpa!” Don’t say your grandchild’s name; wait to see if the caller says the name.
  • Don’t panic. These types of scams tap into the emotional stress in the moment, trying to get you to act before spotting the scam. Ask for details of the situation.

Our team at Senior Safe and Sound is here to help families avoid common scams. If you need more support or information, email us at

This information is intended to inform the public at large about this important issue. It is not intended to serve as legal or medical advice.