Better Business Bureau warns well-meaning seniors about “emergency” scams designed to fool them into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, under arrest or stranded and in need of substantial sums of money.
According to recent FBI reports, the grandparent scam has been around since 2008, but there has been a recent spike in such calls. Western Union, a BBB partner, notes that the emergency scam plays off peoples’ emotions and strong desire to help others in need.
Perpetrators posing as the “grandchild” 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 help you avoid grandparent scams:
Communicate. Make sure you let family members or close friends know when you travel abroad and how you can be contacted in case of emergencies. If you’re traveling with others, provide their cellphone numbers or email addresses, too. Be cautious about sharing travel plans on social media.
Know the red flags. Take time to become familiar with how grandparent – or emergency – scams work. Typically, you’ll receive a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as your grandchild, saying he or she is traveling abroad and has gotten into trouble and needs you to wire thousands of dollars so he/she can post bail, obtain new travel documents, cover legal fees or pay hospital bills. And the "grandchild" pleads to you not to tell his or her parents. Scammers use wire services because money is difficult to trace and recover.
Ask a personal question. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild in distress, BBB advises that you not disclose any information before confirming that it really is your 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 the caller’s identity is to ask a simple question that only your grandchild would know, such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name. If still in doubt, phone your grandchild directly, or his/her parents, roommates or even employer to verify the validity of the story.
Start With Trust. For more information you can trust, visit wynco.bbb.org or phone 970-484-1348 or 800-564-0371.