Roanoke, VA (September 6, 2013) With Grandparents Day being recognized this Sunday, September 8th, the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about “emergency” scams designed to fool them into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded, and in need of money.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the “Grandparent Scam” has been around since at least 2008. 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.
According to the FBI, common scenarios include:
- A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a “grandchild.” If it is a phone call, it’s often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking that clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged…and needs money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.
- Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. Complaints have also been received about the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice…to further spin the fake tale.
- Military families may also be targeted: after perusing a soldier’s social networking site, a con artist will contact the soldier’s grandparents, sometimes claiming that a problem came up during military leave that requires money to address.
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.
If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org.
Posted By Valerie Garner