Marge is a Brookdale resident in Tennessee. One day she received a call that her grandson was in jail and she needed to pay bail money to get him out. She asked, “John in New Jersey?” The caller quickly said it was indeed John. He connected with her emotionally about her grandson and said she had to wire $5,000 to get John out of jail. She went to the bank and the grocery store where she wired the money. Later she learned she had been scammed. Brookdale assisted her in calling the police who ultimately were unable to assist her in recovering her money or finding the perpetrator. The community director said she suffered from deep anxiety long after the incident.
She is not alone. According to an AARP report from a 2019 Senate Special Committee on Aging, older adults lose an estimated $2.9 billion dollars each year to convincing scammers. Retired Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn shared tips during a Brookdale webinar on how to protect loved ones from swindlers. View the webinar and more information here.
Common scams are selling fake products or services, like COVID-19 testing kits and PPE items. “Be vigilant and ask yourself, ‘does it look right, sound right? Verify who you are dealing with and pay attention to any red flags,” Gwyn said.
One of the most common scams is the grandparent fraud that Marge unfortunately experienced. They obtain basic information from social media posts and know enough to often convince the person that the situation is real. Gwyn said tell the potential scammer you will call back and then check with family to see if the call is legitimate. “Don’t give them your information to send money. The timeframe will not make a difference. The scammers go after your heart. They use your emotions to prevent you from thinking clearly. It’s a global criminal enterprise and unfortunately very successful.”
If you ever receive a call you know to be a scam, call local authorities and tell them everything. “Let’s do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable from these scams,” Gwyn said.