Emergency scams (sometimes called grandparent scams) prey on your willingness to help friends and family in need. Scammers impersonate their targets’ loved ones, make up an urgent situation, and plead for help… and money. Thanks to social media sites, scammers can offer plausible stories and incorporate nicknames and real travel plans into the con to convince their targets.
How the Scam Works:
Emergency scams are about a family member or friend in a dire situation. You get a call, email, or social media message from someone claiming to be a family member in distress. They may say they’ve been arrested while traveling overseas, or there was an accident, medical emergency, or other calamity. They provide convincing details, such as family names, school details, etc.
A common version is the “grandparent scam,” where the con artist contacts a grandparent claiming to be their grandchild and asking for money. The plea is so persuasive that the grandparent wires money to the scammer, only to find out later their family member was safe and sound all along. This scam can also work in reverse where the ‘grandparent’ calls their grandchild pleading for help.
Tips to Spot This Scam:
To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.
To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams”.
Last Reviewed: March 6, 2017