BBB warns consumers about “Grandparent Scam”

A prevalent and effective emergency scam has caught the eye of the Better Business Bureau, who took to their site to let consumers know how to watch out for it

(terovesalainen on Adobe Stock)
(terovesalainen on Adobe Stock)
Brock Linebaugh
Published September 23, 2023  • 
10:00 am

FRESNO – In their latest newsletter, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) cautioned consumers to look out for the “grandparent scam,” which according to them is one of the most prevalent and successful scams currently circulating.

“We have noticed a slight increase (of the ‘grandparent scam’) on our scam tracker,” said Emily Prather, BBB’s communication and social media coordinator.

Emergency scams, sometimes called “grandparent scams,” prey on the willingness of an unsuspecting, worried individual to trick them into thinking they are helping friends and family in need. Often, these scammers will impersonate their targets’ loved ones, make up an urgent situation and plead for help and money. 

Social media sites allow scammers to look up information and offer plausible stories. They may even incorporate nicknames and real travel plans into the con to convince their targets. 

The way the “grandparent scam” works is in a situation where a con artist contacts a grandparent, claiming to be their grandchild and asking for money. The plea is so persuasive that the grandparent wires money to the scammer, only to find out their family member was safe and sound later. This scam can also work in reverse, where the “grandparent” calls their grandchild pleading for help.

“If you go to, you can either report a scam, and or you can look up a scam,” said Prather. “You could search up any scam using keywords (such as) grandparent, employment or price gouging, and you can see where it happened, how much the person lost all that good stuff.”

While many people who report the scam on the BBB’s site don’t end up sending any money, some don’t realize they’ve fallen prey to a scheme until it’s too late. One user posted that they lost $19,500 after a scammer called pretending to be a public defender, who claimed their grandson had run a red light and crashed into a pregnant woman, killing her unborn baby.

The “public defender” then asked the person who posted the report to send over $8,500 for bail money, driving home the urgency of the situation by putting the ‘distressed grandson’ on the phone, which was likely a random person crying on the other line.

While the BBB cautions consumers to be wary of texts and social media messages, they also now warn that scammers are using voice cloning techniques to imitate the voices of loved ones. The technology enables con artists to copy the voices of persons close to you from videos they may find on social media or other sources. They can then use tools to imitate the voice of your loved one and have it appear to say whatever they wish in a call. Some voice cloning efforts may be crude, and others very sophisticated – either way, this adds to this scam’s confusing and frightening aspect.

“They’re getting really smart with technology,” Prather said. “We encouraged, in our newsletter, to always verify and double check, or even triple check with any other family members and to never send cash and never send checks.”

One of the other tips shared by their newsletter is to familiarize yourself with what your family shares online so you’ll be able to tell when something suspicious is afoot. They also recommend asking the supposed family member questions that only they could answer to validate their identity.

While the “grandparent scam” and many others like it can be targeted to anyone, Prather warns that the elderly population, as well as military families and students are often the most targeted and most susceptible to many of today’s most prevalent scams. 

To learn more about how to identify and avoid scams, check out the Better Business Bureau’s 10 ten tips to avoid scams newsletter.

Brock Linebaugh