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Beware of the Granny Scam

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Posted: 11 am ET

This isn't exactly a retirement planning topic, but it does deal with money and grandchildren, one of the things that makes retirement a joy.

'Tis the season for the Granny Scam. It's a chestnut that has had a resurgence this year. The fraud works like this.

The phone rings and the person on the other end purports to be your favorite grandchild, and says he has been arrested for something like driving while drinking beer, smoking, fishing with no license or possession of a single marijuana cigarette, and is in jail. He needs money for bail and doesn't want to call his parents because they will be angry. Sometimes, someone purporting to be Sgt. Smith gets on the phone and confirms the dilemma.

Granny complies, following the instructions to send the $2,000 or so via Western Union. If that works, the "grandson" may come back for more, asking for money to pay the hospital emergency room where he has gone to have treatment for the injuries he incurred while in jail.

By that time, surely even the most gullible granny has figured out she's been had.

Reports of this kind of fraud have been made in 14 states and several Canadian provinces.

If you get a call similar to one of these, Western Union urges grandparents to check it out -- even if the grandchild begs for confidentiality and says you're the one adult he loves and trusts. That appeal is part of the scam. Chances are, a call to mom and dad or somebody else in the know will save you thousands of dollars and prove that the kid is all right -- and not sitting in the slammer after all.

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Mr. darryl scott
February 19, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Melissa, had to laugh with everybody else on this one. I worked in Corrections (3 state prisons) in Oklahoma. Your grandmother would've have made a great volunteer. And the guys, even the biggest of them, would've taken notice. Sounds like someone we'd ALL like to have known (or had as Grandma).

The world is better off when such unsung heroines, like her, leaving lasting trails paved with golden values and pearls of great wisdom. Thanks.

February 19, 2011 at 10:44 am


Not knowing where you live may be a blessing. I do a lot of business threu the Western Union, and often send and reciev much more then $499.99, normally in the $1,300 range and have never had a problem sending or receiving . I do know that if you sedn money and it turns ot to be a scam Western Union and or money Gram will refund it to you and then they go after the real culperts, not sure why they do that, may be they are nice or may be the guidelines they have to follow Not sure nor do I care about their health care , it is as messed up as in the UK. so will keep the American way hopefully after we dump the Idiot in the White house

February 09, 2011 at 8:57 am

Melissa: Grannys right! You play you pay!

February 02, 2011 at 2:05 pm

HELLO- I guess they are talking about an "older Grand parent" & maybe with dementia. They are easily confused but want to help their grandchild. While I'm 43 & a Grandma, My kids Grandparents are in their 80's & "loopy". Sad, people would take advantage of them. Just sad.

January 27, 2011 at 6:46 pm

It works in reverse, too. Have you heard of the "My Grandson's going to pay for this" scam? The elderly person brings thier purchase (works well at big box electronics stores) to the register, and says; "My grandson/daughter is going to pay for this when he gets up here, just ring it and suspend it - he got caught back in the line, and we didn't want to cut - that's him there *waves* Hi Dearie!" and some guy in the line sees a little old lady waving at him and waves back. The cashier doesn't see anything amiss, and rings everything through, telling the guy when he gets up there, "It's sure nice of you to buy that [insert items here] for your grandmother!"

January 26, 2011 at 6:53 am

By this point in time, everyone on earth should realize that anybody asking for a cashiers check is trying to rip you off.

If you honestly don't know if they are legit, but want to help, write a check. That way they have to cash it and the bank will have their ID in case you have to report it as fraud.

January 25, 2011 at 8:52 pm

This actually happened to my in-laws. The person even used a name of one of the actual grandchildren - don't know if they use a common name or how they found out. My father-in-law has some dementia but he used to be a cop and saying the grandchild was in jail rang warning bells and he called us. So yes it is real and they wanted the money to go to Canada and they had a story of how mom and dad are not suppose to know. When asked for phone so he could call back, that's when they hung up.

January 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Only in America. LOL. First of all, there is a limit to the amount you can wire through Western Union ($499.99) and secondly, at no time are Canadians charged anything for health care at the hospital - zero, nado, zippo. Surely, you are making this up!!! Must be a slow news day.

January 17, 2011 at 12:10 am

Wow, there are stupid people who actually fall for something this lame? My grandparents are all sharpshooters I guess...

January 16, 2011 at 2:04 am

If more Grandma's had the attitude of my Granny this scam would be alot less effective. There was one family member that did call her to bail them out of jail. She went down to jail and told him since he got in there without her help he could get out of there without her help too. He hasn't been back since.