Better Business Bureau is warning well-meaning seniors about “emergency” scams designed to fool them into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded, and in need of money.
“We don’t always recognize our loved ones’ phone voices immediately, and scammers try to take advantage of the vulnerability,” said Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of the BBB Serving Metropolitan New York. “If you get one of these calls, do not share your personal information. When you hang up, call your grandchild at the place you would usually find them.”
According to recent FBI reports, the “Grandparent Scam” has been around since 2008, but there has been a surge recently. Retirees are an attractive target for financial scammers. As noted by Western Union, emergency scams play off of peoples’ emotions and strong desire to help others in need. Scammers impersonate their victims and make up an urgent situation – “I’ve been arrested,” “I’ve been mugged,” “I’m in the hospital” – and target friends and family with urgent pleas for help and money.
BBB offers the following tips to avoid the Grandparent Scam:
Communicate. Teens should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.
Share information. Teens should provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.
Know the red flags. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild. The “grandchild” explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs help, perhaps caused a car accident or was arrested for drug possession. The "grandchild" pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons posting bail, repairing the car, covering lawyer's fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.
Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their grandchild. If a caller says "It's me, Grandma!" don't respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name.
For more information you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.