Emergency Scams Increase with Summer Travel

July 23, 2013

“Hi, Gram, I need your help and you have to promise not to tell Mom and Dad. I got arrested in Mexico and I need $2,000 bail money…”

“Grandpa, I’m in London with my college roommate. You remember Carol? We were robbed last night in a pub and now I have no money to get home.”

Consumer scams are a serious problem in North America, and this is one of the most common: the Emergency Scam, where the scammer poses as a friend or family member in trouble, often overseas, and requests that money be sent. It’s sometimes called the Grandparent Scam because seniors are often targeted by scammers pretending to be grandchildren.

During the summer travel season, there is an increased potential for Emergency or Grandparent Scams to occur. More people are traveling, and whenever people are vulnerable, fraudsters will generally attack. We also see this scam target families with loved ones deployed overseas, claiming to need the money to get back from a weekend pass. If you don’t send the money, they face being arrested for being AWOL.

Emergency scams play off people’s emotions and strong desire to help others in need. Scammers impersonate their victims’ loved ones, often using information they’ve picked up on social media, and make up an urgent situation – I’ve been arrested, I’ve been mugged, I’m in the hospital. The scammer makes an urgent plea for help…and money. In most cases, the scammer asks for money to be wired immediately. The victim often responds quickly and without checking first to see if the pleading voice on the other end of the phone really is their grandchild or other loved one.

The Better Business Bureau has partnered with Western Union in an effort to educate consumers about how to protect themselves from Emergency Scams during the summer travel season. Western Union offers these “Money Transfer Never Evers” to help consumers avoid scams:

· Never use a money transfer service to send money to someone you have not met in person.

· Never send money for an emergency situation without verifying that it’s a real emergency; ignore the caller’s plea not to tell others; confirm through other friends and family.

· Never send funds received by check until it officially clears in your account, which can take several days, or more.

This is also a good opportunity to warn those using social media to check their privacy settings on a consistent basis and don’t over-share information that might be used to trick their loved ones.

For more tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.


Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA, Inc. serving 41 counties in Central Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Web site: www.bbb.org or E-mail: info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org or info@csra.bbb.org