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FBI Warns of a “Grandparent Fraud Scheme”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning of the latest scheme targeting the elderly and taking advantage of their love for their families. The despicable crime is detailed below and everyone is encouraged to share it, especially with older family members who may be most vulnerable.

Special agents with the FBI San Diego Field Office are investigating hundreds of reports of elder fraud involving social engineering and artificial intelligence. FBI San Diego wants to educate older adults and their family members about this nationwide scam to help them avoid becoming a victim of fraud. 

In this “Grandparent Fraud” scheme, senior residents are being contacted by scammers posing as family members who have been arrested and need bail money. The scammers are using social engineering and artificial intelligence to convince the older adult victim they are talking to a family member. A fake attorney is then introduced and will coordinate ride share services to pick up cash in-person for the purpose of bailing the loved one out of jail.

“This scam is affecting our most vulnerable citizens,” said FBI San Diego Field Office Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy. “In many instances, someone has had their entire life savings stolen and they’re embarrassed to speak out about it. We want victims to know they are not alone, and they should report it to law enforcement, because we want to get these bad people off the street.”

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) data reports between January and May 2023, there were $22.5 million in losses and more than 450 victims in San Diego. Nationwide, from 2021 to 2022, dollar losses to elder financial exploitation increased 84%.

FBI San Diego suggests older adult residents take the following action to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Do not provide personal information or money to anyone you have only communicated with by telephone or online.
    Be careful about what you post online. Scammers can use details shared on social media platforms and dating sites to legitimize their story.
  • Be suspicious of telephone calls in which the caller requests bail money for a family member in distress and requires you to immediately act.  Contact the family member directly for confirmation.
  • Document any identifying information from the caller, such as name, phone number and/or address. This can help law enforcement apprehend the scammers.

Seniors who believe they have been a victim of fraud, or anyone who knows someone who may be a victim, should file a report on ic3.gov or call their local field office.

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