It's called the grandparent scam and it cost a 91 year-old woman thousands of dollars --just for wanting to help a grandchild. Here's how to recognize and stop the financial abuse of the elderly.

A recent phone call alarmed Juliette Swanson. She heard the voice of someone crying, and asking for help. She thought it was her grandson, Kurt.

"I said, ‘Who is this? Are you Kurt? You don't sound like Kurt at all'", Swanson said she told the caller.

The caller told her he was Kurt and he was in jail.

Swanson said he told her 'I'm in an awful stew. We rented a car and I signed for it and I got in an awful accident.'

The caller asked for money. She went to her bank withdrew $4600 and wired it back east to a fictitious lawyer to save her beloved grandson -- who was a new father himself.

"This is what I was thinking of, and with a new baby, I sure wasn't going to let this happen if at all possible," Swanson said.

Later, she found out Kurt was at home in British Columbia, not Ontario, and this was all a scam.

What happened to Swanson is elder abuse. One in 12 B.C. seniors has suffered a loss of $20,000 or more. In her case she was targeted by a stranger but usually it's someone a senior knows.

Laura Watts, the national director for the Canadian Centre for Elder Law, says abusers are predominately family and friends.

She says often the abuser tries to isolate the senior.

"That new best friend may very well be an abuser," Watts told CTV news.

Swanson says the scam artist who called her didn't want her to discuss his so-called plight with any other family members. She knows now that was a red flag and wishes she'd called her daughters.

Swanson is fortunate to have lots of family support, including a grandson who is mortified his grandmother was hurt by thieves using his name.

The family wants other families and seniors to know what happened so they can foil a heartless scam.

"[The crooks] have no conscience at all, so they don't care," Swanson said.

In addition to the stress of losing money, financial crimes targeting seniors are more serious because seniors don't have the ability to make up the money that was stolen. The loss can force a drastic change in lifestyle if medications and other necessities are no longer affordable. Advocates say that can cause serious health issues.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen.