Someone Tried to Scam My Nana and I Am Pissed

I am typically a pretty peaceful person, but the unadulterated rage that I have been feeling for the past 36 hours could really use an outlet, and that outlet would preferably be the face of the woman who tried to scam my nana out of $3,800 yesterday.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before- a woman or man calls an elderly person and says, “Grandma, I’m stuck in Mexico, my car broke down and I need $3,800 to get it fixed. Can you wire me the money? I’m not in a very good area and I am kind of scared.” If you’re like me, yes, of course you’ve heard this one before, or some variation close enough that you would recognize it if it happened to you. It’s a classic, preying on the kindness and compassion of a grandparent, banking on the fact that they will do whatever they need to do to ensure the safety of their precious grandchildren. It might not have reached the epic proportions of the Nigerian prince scam, but it’s common enough that you’ve probably heard tell of it. Here’s the thing though- we spend a significant amount of time on the ol’ interwebs, we’ve entertained ourselves for hours on, and we are, as a group, pretty well informed due to the sheer volume of information at our fingertips. My nana watches the Food Network.  How would she have ever heard about this? Does Sandra Lee do PSAs in between courses? I don’t think so. Though maybe she should. I need to call her people.

We always think these things are going to happen to somebody else, some nameless, faceless grandpa in Alabama or Arkansas or some other state that starts with an A (no offense intended to those in those states. I use them as examples because they are far away from me, not due to any preconceived ideas about their tendencies to fall for scams. And, I like alliteration). We think that the people in our lives would never fall for such shenanigans. But why do we think that? Isn’t it pretty presumptuous to think that those around us are immune, that they are as thoroughly informed as we are? On top of the anger I’ve been experiencing, I also feel really, really guilty. How could I have not told her about these things? Why did I assume that because I knew it, she did? What else haven’t I told her that could potentially harm her? The only reason the thief didn’t get her money is because the wonderful woman at Western Union stopped her and asked her to call and double check before she wired the money. Nana was sure the woman on the other end of the phone was my cousin Julie, so she called Julie’s house in Georgia, and of course, Julie was home, not in Mexico. Peggy at Western Union, I love you. I will be filling the in-boxes of every executive at Western Union to sing your praises as soon as this article is done.

Older people living on their own are prime targets for crooked people, or as I like to call them, total fucking assholes. Our grandparents’ generation was raised to be polite, which is why it is nearly impossible to get them to hang up on telemarketers during dinner, but also why they are easier to steamroll. They don’t want to seem rude or inhospitable. Also, they are often hesitant to admit when they feel they are being taken advantage of or if they have been scammed “because they are concerned that relatives may think the(y) no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.” ( We have a responsibility to our grandparents (or parents) who may not be as plugged in as we are. We have to make them aware of the potential dangers, and we have to do it now.

A few tips-

Come up with an easy to remember “safe word”(get your minds out of the gutter, we’re talking about grandparents here!)

This should be an agreed-upon word that must be used if ever calling with emergency circumstances, such as needing money or other financial help. Please don’t choose “Western Union” as your family’s safe word. This will keep nobody safe.

Go to this link – review the laundry list of scams targeting the elderly. Print it out and give a copy to the older people in your life.

I had planned on doing a bullet list here, but when I started doing research, the sheer volume of scams was horrifying and the FBI does a much better job summarizing than I could ever hope to. This link will also confirm your fear that people are evil, just a heads up.

If at all possible, go give the older people in your life a hug. If not, call them and see how they are doing. Make sure they know that if they ever need anything, they can call you.

Make sure they know they can ask you for advice without judgment, that you won’t laugh at them for not knowing what we consider “common knowledge.” Give them the knowledge.

In conclusion, that bitch better hope I never find out who she is. Nobody, NOBODY messes with my Nana. Shit just got real.

I mean, really? You’re going to scam this little nugget? Good luck sleeping at night, jackass.

17 replies on “Someone Tried to Scam My Nana and I Am Pissed”

thanks for the advice! my dad is totally an elderly person waiting to be scammed. his track record w/internet and money-related schemes is not good. i somehow talked him out the pyramid scheme he’d been sucked into, which required him to walk away from his initial investment. but i need some help to make the warnings and advice stick. he’s going out of the country for a couple months, with his new laptop. i’m already worried.

I’m so glad that the Western Union woman said something, because I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t have bothered to say anything if they were suspicious. Someone did this same scam a few weeks ago to my grandmother’s neighbor. She knew right off the bat that it was a scam because her grandchildren call her Nana, and the scammer called her Grandma. I’m so glad she didn’t fall for it, and I’m also glad they didn’t target my Grammy!

She actually went to two other Western Union locations before she was finally told to check! The other two places just told her they had a $2500 limit on the amount they could wire, nothing at all about a potential scam! I am so, so, so thankful for Peggy.

I’m sorry this happened to your family Kym. Situations like this will make some people angry, but it will make others feel scared and vulnerable as well, and noone wants to live like that. It’s just sickening. Thank God for the Western Union, eh?

I remember when my grandmother was alive, it wasn’t a scammer but a rival telephone company, they rang her and confused her utterly and signed her up for every package under the sun – she came to me and my mother in tears when she got her first bill. We went to the ombudsman and got it fixed, but by God, it made me SO angry that people would deliberately prey on the elderly in that way. For fuck’s sake people, have a little respect.

That phone company is disgusting! This is one I have heard a LOT, whether it is utility companies or contractors that throw in all these extra costs when they are in the middle of a job and threaten not to finish unless the person pays up. A co-workers grandmother had some shady plumbers who came in and tore her house to shit, then told her they needed an additional $10,000 to complete the project. So infuriating! I’m so glad you were able to get everything sorted out. It’s just so scary.

This actually reminded me of something that happened to my parents. There’s a current scam going on in my country where a young person (usually a female) calls a number and pretends to be someone’s recently kidnapped child. They cry and beg for help and say that the kidnappers want an X amount of money. My parents got that call, they freaked out completely but then they reacted that I am currently living in Europe with my husband so the chances of the call being real were slim to none. They called my cellphone just to be sure and they were very happy and very relieved but if I ever find out who the bitch was that called them and gave them such a scare in order to scam them, shit will hit the fan.

Oh. My. God. That is the most horrifying thing I have ever heard. WTF is wrong with people?!?!?!? Thank goodness they had the presence of mind to call you first, because I can imagine many people going into instant Parent Mode and not even thinking clearly when faced with a call like that. The people who do such things are so vile, I can’t even wrap my head around it.

Wow that is terrifying. Something very similar happened to my grandmother two years ago. Someone called her posing as me (even using my name and knowing what I called her) and told her that “I” had been in a drunk driving accident and needed bail money. My Grandma doesn’t even have long-distance service on her phone line and had to ask to borrow a neighbour’s phone to call my parents and check in with them and I’m so glad she did! The scammers totally emotionally blackmailed her, telling her that she shouldn’t call my parents because I trusted her to keep my secret because we’re so close etc. As soon as I found out I rang her feeling horrible because I hadn’t spoken to her for months and she seemed so worried about my actual safety.

Oh and to top off all that guilt she passed away a few months after and that was the last conversation I had with her. If I ever find out who did that to her I swear to Lucifer I will rain down a world of pain on them for targeting her like that. People are such assholes.

I may print this out and send it to my grandparents as well. We’re in pretty close contact, see them or talk to them via phone every couple of days, but you never know.

My Grandparents live in a small town, and everyone knows each other by name and generally knows each others business. Recently my Grandmother had to have gall bladder surgery and was going to be in the hospital for a couple of days. Naturally my Grandfather stayed by her bedside. Even though only family was told about the surgery, on her second day in the hospital someone showed up at their house and robbed them. They didn’t break into the house, but they went out back to my Grandfather’s shed where he kept expensive collectibles from his antiquing hobby and stole hundreds of dollars worth of collectibles – they also stripped the copper from their HVAC unit and other assorted equipment he had out back. Whoever did it obviously had heard from someone in the family that my Grandma was in surgery and banked on them not being home. Since then, they get odd calls at weird hours and have caught someone on their property more than once at night. It is terrifying. They are both 70+ and my Grandma is in frail health. It makes me sick to think that someone is preying on their fragility and old age. It has gotten to the point where they keep their alarm system on at all times, even when they are home, and my Grandfather won’t leave my Grandma there alone at night because he’s afraid she can’t defend herself if she were to get robbed. They’ve had to form a kind of neighborhood watch among the people on their street and have various members of the family come by to check in with them just to feel safe. It really pisses me off.

What kind of person robs the elderly in any capacity?

That is absolutely horrible. You poor grandparents! To not only have it be a total violation of their safety but to also know that the people have such intimate knowledge of their goings-on has to be even more disconcerting. Thank goodness for their neighbors chipping in to keep them safe. Small towns can be a blessing and a curse.

And the type of person who robs the elderly? One of the worst kind of people on the planet, as far as I can tell.

There was a news report up here in Canada about a string of similar scams, although they used a “grandson” instead. Creepy and f*d up. Strangely enough, all the requested amounts were either $2,800 or $3,800 as well.

And thanks for posting the link. I think I’ll call my grandparents this weekend.

Thanks for writing this Kym! I never thought about why an older person may not ask questions, and you’ve brought up good points. My grandma’s in assisted living, but she does have her own phone line (just like in a dorm!). I’m thinking of sending this post over to her community’s management. It may come better from the people she pays rather than the people she loves, you know?

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