Phone ScamsPhone Scams

Getting Scammed over the Phone? You’re Not the Only One

Ring. Ring. Ring. “Hello?” my grandmother answers her rotary phone. “Hello, is this Madelyn?” a shaky voice asks on the other line. My grandmother responds, “Yes.” And with that simple word the caller delves into the most emotionally exhausting monologue in the history of the planet.

It went something like this. The caller said that they were friends with one of my brother’s college friends. The caller knew my brother’s name. They also knew the name of a mutual friend. The mutual friend apparently invited my brother to Mexico a few weeks ago. While my brother was (fictionally) down there, he was robbed and lost his Passport. He was unable to return from the border as he didn’t have any credentials. He had also gotten in an accident with his friend and had spent his remaining pesos on surgery at the hospital. The caller claimed he was a mutual friend and then went on to ask my grandmother for money.

I couldn’t believe my ears when my mom told me about this! I was angry that anyone would target my grandmother- she has zero presence online so who the heck knows how these scammers got her phone number? I can see how the scammer would know my brother’s name. I don’t see how they would ever link my grandmother. Where do they even get her information from?

But this actually happened. This is a real, live story. And it’s affecting roughly 20% of seniors every year. Chances are your loved one already has received such a call or will get this call in the near future.

Imagine if the call came to your loved one. Do you think they would call you up right away to share this dreadful story? Maybe they would send the money and keep the story to themselves. Sometimes seniors get caught up in the emotional story and get their heart strings tugged at and give away their hard earned money without having second thoughts.

I know of an elderly lady who is dear friends with my mother. She believes she is helping out some poor gold miners in a foreign country that keep getting shut down – every week they call her to ask her to send some more money to keep them going. And she sends it. She feels so badly for them having to go without bread or clean water. She’s sent them well over $200,000 and she doesn’t believe for a second that she’s being scammed. Despite our pleas and her family’s protests, she continues to send these scammers checks and money wires every time they phone her home.

According to, seniors are scammed out of $2.6 billion every year with nearly 20% of this demographic being played by scammers. Never trust anyone who asks you for money over the phone – no matter how heart wrenching their story is.

Luckily, my grandmother knew this story was off. She hastily called my mother up and told her all about it. My mother then texted my brother asking him, “Are you in Mexico?” He texted back, “I wish.

Also be wary of internet scams that target seniors – follow these tips to keep your information secure online.

Senior Advisor's knowledgeable writers blog about senior care services, trends and more.


  1. Suryo Saputro June 6, 2015 Reply

    I think we, as younger, and have more knowledge about these scams, are the one that should tell our grandparents all about scam schemes and methods. Based on my own search at some sites like, almost all scammers’ target are older people, because they always easily convinced with scammer’s story and speech. That becomes our responsibilities to share these information to our grandparents, so they will know about them and won’t be easily scammed.

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