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Prince William County Police

Protect Yourself from the Grandparent Scam

Provided by Prince William County Police

You’re a grandparent and you get a phone call or an email from someone who identifies themselves as your grandchild. “I’ve been arrested in another country,” they say, “and need money wired quickly to pay my bail. And oh, by the way, don’t tell my mom or dad because they’ll only get upset!” This is an example of what’s come to be known as “the grandparent scam.”

Common scenarios include:

  • A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an email) from a “grandchild.” If it is a phone call, it’s often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested
    for drugs, getting in a car accident or being mugged…and needs money wired quickly. In addition, the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.
  • Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. In other cases, the phony grandchild talks first and then hands the phone over to an accomplice…to further spin the fake tale.
  • While it is commonly called the “grandparent scam,” criminals may also claim to be a family friend, a niece or nephew, or another family member.

What to do if you have been scammed:
Contact the Police Department if you think you have been victimized. We also suggest you report possible fraud at or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Resist the pressure to act quickly, no matter how dramatic the story is – Don’t panic.
  • Try to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
  • Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine.
  • Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
  • Never wire money or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier based on a request made over the phone or in an email…especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash —once you send it, you can’t get it back.

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