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Con Artist Says He Made $10,000 A Day In Telephone 'Grandparent Scam'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A man who admits to swindling elderly people out of cash has described just how the so-called grandparent scam works.

As CBS 2's Alice Gainer reported, con artists preying on the elderly call, pretending to be a grandchild in an emergency pleading for money.

"You can make $10,000 sometimes in a day if you do it properly," the scammer who didn't want to be identified said.

The 31-year-old con man in federal custody is currently awaiting sentencing in California for his role in the grandparent scam.

"You just say 'hey how are you, hi Grandma, hi Grandpa, I'm in a little bit of trouble right now. If I tell you, just keep it between us. I'm on vacation but I got into a little accident and I was arrested for a DUI.' You tell them, 'things got out of control and I need you to send me the money,'" he said.

The con man worked out of Canada and called senior citizens in the U.S. He said one out of 50 callers would fall for it.

"We target people over the age of 65 mainly, because they're more gullible, they're at home, they're more accessible," he said. "Once you get them emotionally involved, then they'll do anything for you, basically."

A grandmother said she was one of those victims blinded by emotion when she was scammed by someone.

"There was a desperation and an urgency in his voice, partly because he said 'love you,'" the woman said.

When asked if the caller even sounded like her 29-year-old grandson she said no. But he said he had a broken nose.

"I just wanted him to be home with his family. That's all I wanted," the grandmother said.

The 81-year-old wired almost $18,000 to a bank account in North Carolina thinking her grandson was sitting in jail for drunk driving.

But the money was gone and the scammer's phone was disconnected.

Doug Shadel with AARP said this happens to more people than you'd think.

"We've had doctors and lawyers fall for this. It doesn't really matter what your educational level is because it triggers something emotional that causes you to act," he said.

The con man that CBS spoke with said he spent most of the money he scammed.

"I didn't know how much pain this was causing people," the scammer said. "I thought people were making $100,000 a year and they would lose a couple thousand here and there."

The con man said to prevent the scam from happening to you, ask a question that only your grandchild would know, such as the name of a pet.

It's estimated senior citizens are robbed out of roughly $3 billion a year in financial scams.

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