This article was published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Consumer Information by Cristina Miranda, Consumer Education Specialist

My grandma kept an eye out for cheaters. (No, not that kind.) Back in the day, if a salesman knocked on her front door, she waved them off. Before caller ID, she hung up on telemarketers. But a call from a phony debt collector? She might have fallen for that one. Especially if the debt collector said she was responsible for her grandchild’s debt.

Here’s what’s happening: A fake debt collector calls you. They want to collect on a debt your grandchild (supposedly) failed to pay. They ask you to wire money, send a prepaid card or give your credit card number – immediately. And if you won’t – or can’t – pay? That’s when the threats begin:


“Your grandchild will be arrested.”

“He’ll lose his job.”

“We’ll suspend her driver’s license.”


Unless you co-signed a loan, you’re never responsible for someone else’s debt. In fact, debt collectors can’t legally tell you that someone – anyone – else even has a debt.

If you get one of these calls, stop. Don’t be rushed into sending money. Don’t verify any personal or financial information. And hang up if the caller threatens you. Debt collectors can’t do that. It’s not legal. Once you’re off the phone, report the call to the FTC.

Want more? Read our tips on how to avoid family emergency scams. And check out Pass It On, our campaign that encourages older adults to talk to others about avoiding scams.


Source: FTC –, phone 1-877-FTC-HELP.


Hanna Benioff
Senior Services Coordinator
Phone: (630) 719-6682

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