Summer is high travel season. This means it’s also peak time for emergency scams. These scams play off of peoples’ emotions and desire to help others in need. Scammers impersonate their victims’ loved ones. Then, they make up an urgent situation and plead for help, and money.
How the Scam Works:
You answer the phone. The person on the other end claims to be a family member who was arrested while traveling overseas. They tell you to wire $1,000 in order to post bail and hire a local attorney.
You think the call sounds suspicious. But the caller provides you with convincing details. For example, he may know family names and other personal information, such as school or employer names and details about the trip.
The information is so persuasive that you wire the money. A week later, your family member returns home… safe and sound. He/she was never in trouble, and you are out $1,000.
Emergency scams come in call shapes and sizes. There’s the Grandparent Scam where con artists contact the elderly claiming to be their grandchild (or niece/nephew), urgently asking for money. Con artists also hack into email accounts and then target friends and family with frantic requests for money, claiming injury, a lost or stolen wallet, arrest, etc. They can do the same by hacking social media accounts.
The emergency scam is classic con, but the popularity of Facebook and other social media has given scammers an advantage. Scammers can offer extremely plausible stories and many have done their research – they often have custom scams based on a victim’s profession or family and can often name details about your family members. Be aware of what information about you and your family is posted online, so you won’t be caught off guard.
How to Protect Yourself from an Emergency Scam:
- Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
- Always check out the story with other family and friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
- Do not call the phone number provided by the caller, call the phone number for the family member or friend that you know to be genuine. Do not call the phone number provided by the caller.
- Spot a scammer by asking questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer correctly.
- Know what you (and your family members) are sharing online. You may not have control over your family’s social media accounts, but familiarize yourself with what they are sharing online. Learn about Facebook privacy settings here.
For More Information
To find out more about scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper.