Don’t Fall for Telephone Scams


Scammers and shady telemarketers like to target older adults.  Why?  People who grew up in the 1930s through the 1950s were raised to be more polite and less mistrustful.  They are less likely to hang up the phone than someone younger, and it is often presumed they have a hefty nest egg. And many times they don’t report crimes—either because they don’t know who to call or out of embarrassment at being tricked. 

How can you protect yourself?  Being aware is key.  Following are some of the more common telephone scams.


The Grandparent Scam


Imagine picking up your telephone to hear someone say, “Grandma, guess who this is?” Your natural inclination would be to answer with the name of one of your grandchildren.  You’ve just given the scammer on the other end of the line some very valuable and personal information.  Generally the scammer, now posing as the grandchild you just named, goes on to ask for money for some reason—they’ve borrowed from a friend and need to repay the loan, they’ve overdrawn their checking account or something else that will play on your sympathy.  And they usually ask that you not tell their parents who might be angry or disappointed with them. You are then instructed, by your bogus grandchild, to send the money via Western Union.


The Fake Accident Ploy


Again, in this scam you are contacted by phone, only this time the person calling claims to be contacting you on behalf of a relative who has been in an accident or is in the hospital and needs cash immediately.  You are asked to send or wire money for that person—except there hasn’t been an accident and the money is going to wind up in the hands of the scam artist.


Charity Scams


Many so-called charities are anything but with only pennies from every dollar raised going to the supposed charity.  Instead, unscrupulous individuals are using professional fundraisers and telemarketers to line their own pockets with outrageous salaries.

Some callers claim to be collecting money on behalf of the local police or fire department or for veterans and military families.  It’s natural to want to support these causes, but before you give a donation over the telephone, call the organization itself to verify that the call is legitimate.   

Callers may trick you by thanking you for your pledge to donate—a pledge you don’t remember making. Don’t fall for it.  If you can’t remember making the pledge, you most likely never did.

Be wary of charities that spring up after a natural disaster such as a hurricane, an earthquake or some cause that is currently in the news.  Even if the organization is legitimately trying to raise money for those affected by the disaster, they often lack the infrastructure necessary to get the money to those in need.  Instead, donate to organizations that have a solid track record like the Red Cross.


  • Ask the caller if they are a paid fundraiser and if so, how much of your dollar will actually go to help those in need.
  • Do your research and verify that the organization is legitimate before sending a check.
  • Don’t ever give your banking or credit card information to someone over the phone.
  • Even better—make an annual donation plan and stick with it.  Don’t allow a caller to pressure you into making a donation you hadn’t planned on.
  • You can check the legitimacy of organizations as well as how their money is spent by going to an online site such as

Remember, you can always HANG UP!

Information provided by Holland Home