grandparent scam
n. A fraud in which a scammer calls an elderly person, pretends to be a grandson or granddaughter, and asks for money. Also: grandparents scam.

Example Citations:
Nicknamed the "emergency scam" or "grandparent scam," the fraud involves crooks phoning elderly people under the guise of one of their grandchildren. The crook persuades grandparent to send money but not tell other relatives.
—Jon Willing, "My dearest one, you've been scammed," The Ottawa Sun. January 27, 2009

A local woman is out $5,000 after falling for the "grandparent scam" earlier this week.

The Sunnieholme Drive resident told police she received a call Tuesday from a man who said he was her grandson. He told her he needed money after being arrested in Canada after drinking and crashing his car. ...

The Phonebusters Web site, part of the Canadian Anti-fraud Call Centre, reports that there has been a significant increase in complaints filed with the center about the "grandparent scam."
—Genevieve Reilly, "Alleged 'Grammy' scammer swindles Fairfield woman," Connecticut Post, January 15, 2009

Earliest Citation:
Grandparents Scam

This is a particularly vile scam aimed at senior citizens, perhaps the most vulnerable scam victims. An elderly person is targeted by the scammer who calls and says something like, "It's me, grandpa." The elderly person will respond, thinking it's one of their grandchildren.

The scammer then tells a tale of woe, saying they are in trouble and need some money, "and please don't tell mom." The grandparent obligingly sends a few hundred dollars, thinking they're helping a grandchild.
—Mark Huffman, "Top 10 Scams of 2006," ConsumerAffairs.com, December 11, 2006

Notes:
The related phrase granny scam (which, in the more general sense of "a fraud perpetrated against an elderly person," dates to at least 1992) is a bit older:

A scam artist is targeting residents of the San Bernardino Mountains, claiming to be a relative who needs $ 500 for car repairs, according to local law enforcement officials. ...

"It's commonly called the 'granny scam,' " said San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Tristan Svare of the Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit.
—Richard Brooks, "Recent scams prompt caution," Press Enterprise, October 28, 2002

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