"Hi, Grandma" scam hits mid-Missouri

Diners gather at Jefferson City's Clarke Senior Center Thursday. Several report scammers are targeting mid-Missouri seniors claiming to be grandchildren in distress. (Garrett Bergquist/KRCG 13)

A city council member on Thursday said a scammer targeted her claiming to be a grandchild in distress.

Beverly Gray said someone called her on Wednesday and started by saying "Hi, Grandma." He claimed to have been pulled over and busted for drug possession and said he needed money. Gray said she quickly determined something was wrong and hung up. She then called Fulton police, who referred her to the attorney general's office. Gray said the attorney general's office has gotten so many complaints about the scam they've started calling it the "Hi, Grandma" scam.

Gray said a friend of hers fell for the scam a couple of years ago and she's worried others might as well. She isn't alone. Jefferson City resident Richard Hirst said he got a similar call about a year ago. A man on the line claimed to be his son and said he had been pulled over for speeding in Florida and needed bail money. Hirst hung up because he didn't have any relatives in Florida.

"What scum would do this to someone in their 80s or 70s who love their children dearly?" he said.

Hirst said one trick he uses to find out if a caller is legitimate is to throw out a fake name. For example, if you don't have any relatives named Bob, ask if "Bob" is talking.

"If it's truly your grandchild, they're going to say, 'Grandpa, what in the world are you thinking about,'" he said.

The Federal Trade Commission said more sophisticated scammers might glean personal information from social media and other accounts to make their calls more convincing. If you get a call claiming to be a family member in urgent need of money, the FTC recommends checking with another family member first or calling your grandchild back at a number you know is theirs. You should then alert your friends to the scam in case they get a similar call.

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