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Harsh reality- despite warnings, more seniors are falling for the "Grandparent Scam"

New FTC report shows 1 in 4 people over 70 has given money to impostors claiming to be a grandchild in distress KOMO photo

Most grandparents wouldn't think twice about helping a grandchild in trouble. Unfortunately, that love has grandparents everywhere being tricked out of their life savings by, what's known as, the "Grandparent Scam."

KOMO News has warned about the scam for at least a decade, but new numbers from the Federal Trade Commission show an alarming increase in the number of people over age 70 who are sending money to impostors who pretend to be their grandchildren.

Families are losing staggering amounts of money. Last year, according to the FTC, 1 in 14 people over age 70 reported sending money to fake grandchildren. This year that number is 1 in 4. Total losses to friend or family impostor scams last year were $26 million; for 2018, it's $41 million and counting.

Clearly, the people who need to hear the warnings most are not getting the message — that's where you can help.

First, warn every grandparent you know to watch out for urgent phone calls about out-of-state or foreign country emergencies, where a so-called grandchild needs fast money to get out of trouble. It could be a car crash, a drunk driving arrest, a passport dispute, a bar fight, the stories are endless.

The impostors often urge their targets to keep it secret and "Please, don't tell mom and dad." These are all signs of the scam.

If you get such a call. Hang up immediately. Never confirm who you are and never mention any names. Always call your family member immediately and you'll discover they are safe and sound. If you can't reach the family member right away, don't panic. Just don't do anything until you talk to the grandchild or his or her parents.

No matter what you do: Never wire money, never send money by express mail, never buy prepaid cards and share the card codes.

And spread the word. Don't assume people already know about this. Warn your friends, relatives and neighbors. A simple warning could help save a lot of grief.

Also, contact your your representatives in congress and ask them to support the "Senior Scams Prevention Act."

The new proposal would help get retailers, banks and wire transfer companies to do a better job of training their employees to recognize the red flags and help stop these scams in progress.

If you or someone you know is contacted by a scam call of any nature trying to get money — just hang up and contact the U.S. Senate Aging Committee on Aging at 1-855-303-9470.

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