For too many years, Better Business Bureau®
has fielded calls from seniors and concerned family members who convey stories of thousands lost to strangers perpetrating what's become known as the "Grandparent Scam." The US Senate is examining the growing problem with a hearing tomorrow
in Washington, DC.
BBB serving Greater Maryland warns the grandparent scam usually begins with a "phishing" call by someone who poses as a grandchild in trouble in another country. Once "Grandma" or "Granddad" is hooked, the caller spins a tale of imprisonment, other detainment or even an accident and an urgent need of cash in order to gain freedom. Often, the senior family member answers the caller's plea by addressing him or her by a grandchild's name. That knowledge can enhance the experienced scammer's skills of persuasion. Sometimes the caller pretends to be a government official or medical professional.
The scam always includes the caution that the grandparent not tell "Mom or Dad," and that the money be discretely wired to the desired point of destination. The FTC reports that more than $73 million dollars were lost to the scam in 2013.
BBB offers these tips to avoid the grandparent scam:
- Be skeptical. Ask questions only the grandchild could know the answer to, without revealing too much personal information yourself. Ask the name of a pet, a favorite dish or what school they attend. Your loved one should not get angry about you being too cautious.
- Verify information. Check with the parents to see if their child is really travelling as they say they are.
- Don't wire money. Never use a transfer service to send money to someone you haven't met in person, or for an emergency you haven't verified is real.
- Report it. If you fall victim to the scam, contact the FTC and BBB.