By Jim Donovan

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s one of the more popular scams out there: So-called “grandparent scams” that target the elderly. As 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds, it appears there’s no end in sight.

The Federal Trade Commission has recorded more than 40,000 complaints about grandparent scams since 2010. Senior citizens that have been victimized have lost amounts totaling tens of millions of dollars.

It begins with a call, often in the middle of the night, from someone they know and love. But it’s actually a con artist asking for emergency money, prompting an unsuspecting senior to reveal a loved one’s name.

Laura May ended up wiring $2,700 to a scammer claiming to be her grandson Josh, who was allegedly stuck in a Mexican prison.

And while Marilyn Maffly didn’t fall for the scam, she says many others in her senior living facility did.

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“Almost everyone in the building got a granny call,” Maffly says.

The scam artists typically rely on a set of common tricks, like begging for a secret about an embarrassing arrest or injury to keep the senior from verifying the story.

The crooks then arrange for a wire transfer, and while Western Union forms now come with warnings not to send money for unconfirmed emergencies, they’re often overlooked or ignored.

Though warnings have been issued by everyone from the government to consumer groups to the Better Business Bureau, this is yet another friendly warning that this is a scam that’s still out there.

So, listen to Marilyn, who says, “Don’t believe them. It’s not your handsome grandson or anybody else — it’s someone you don’t know.”

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