Grandparent Scheme

Grandparents talking to little boy at kitchen table

Grandparent scams (also called grandchild scams and/or emergency scams) are common schemes that target older adults. These scams usually involve a phone call or email from someone pretending to be your grandchild or a loved one in trouble. A new variant of the scheme has emerged where the fraudsters contact the grandparent via their social media (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc.) or by text message instead of a phone call.


Pretending to be your grandchild, the scammer claims to be in trouble and asks for your help. (Note: the scammers may also pose as a law enforcement official, a lawyer, or another person of authority claiming to help your family member.) The scammer will try to convince you that something has happened to your grandchild, for example: there has been a car accident; your grandchild has been arrested; or their cellphone is broken or has been dropped in water. The scammers proceed to ask you for a favour by requesting money from you. These funds are supposedly for such things as bail, medical bills, fines, to repair the broken phone, or to pay an urgent bill. The “grandchild” pleads for you not to tell other relatives because they are embarrassed or scared. They rely on you wanting to help your “grandchild” by sending money via wire transfer or other means to the scammer.

These scammers are very good at convincing you that they really are your grandchild by providing convincing details such as family names and school details (which they may have found on social media). At other times, the may trick you into sharing that sensitive information:

“Grandpa? Do you know who this is?”
“John, is that you?”

If you get a call like this, be prepared.


  • Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic and urgent the story sounds.
  • Ask hard-to-answer questions. Does the caller know the name of your dog? How about his/her mom’s birthday? Be cautious if the person avoids the questions or changes the subject. Avoid sharing any personal information over the phone.
  • Independently verify the call. Contact a friend, another family member, or your grandchild directly to assess and verify the situation (use a known telephone number, not one provided by the caller). Does it make sense? Is your grandchild in the hospital/out of country/in jail? Never send money unless you are 100% confident about the recipient.
  • Know what your family members are sharing online. You may not have control over your family’s social media accounts, but familiarize yourself with what they are sharing online, so you are aware of what information may be available publicly.
  • Implement code words with family members that they will have to use to verify who they are.
  • Share information about this scam. The more people that know about this scam, the fewer people will become victims. Share details about this scam with your friends and family members, especially ones that are grandparents.


If you receive a call like this, DO NOT wire money or give the caller any further information. Hang up and call your grandchild, or another family member, to find out what is really going on.

If you believe you have been contacted by a scammer, report the matter to: