Scam targets elderly with grandchildren

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The minute Jim Ullrich answered his phone, he knew something was suspicious.

"He said he had a hit and run accident and that he was in jail and that he was at U.S. court," Ullrich said.

What kept him on the line was what he thought was his grandson's voice.

"The biggest problem was his voice sounded 100 percent just like him and even his attitude," Ullrich said.

The Federal Trade Commission said in 2015 alone, there were over 10,000 reports of family impersonation fraud complaints.

Here's how it works: it starts off with the scammers telling seniors their grandchild is in legal trouble and needs money. Then they put a male or female on the line, convincing the grandparent they are talking to their grandchild.

"He said he was going to go to court and needed $860," Ullrich said.

The scammers then instructed Ullrich to go to Walmart, get a gift card and read the number to them over the phone. In a matter of minutes, he was out the money.

Team Logic IT's Lacey Clark said a lot of these scammers search social media to learn about your family first before making the call, and there are a few red flags you can look out for when dealing with these criminals.

"The less information you give out, the less information they can get. If you stop this information from getting out there, then the scammers are going to have to go through their script, and you're more likely to pick up on to it that way," Clark said.

According to AARP, the best ways to stop the scammers are:

-Ask personal questions only you or your relative would know the answer to.

-Never say yes to a money transfer.

-Hang up and try to call the person they are impersonating.