The Grandparent Scam:  Don’t Let It Happen to You!

October 19 2012

You get a call in the middle of the night from someone claiming to be your grandchild needing a large sum of money immediately. They tell you they have been traveling in another country and have been robbed or arrested and need bail money. This “grandchild” tells you they want you to wire the money quickly and ask that you not tell their parent(s) they are in trouble. Don’t send the money! This “grandchild” is a scammer who is trying to steal your money!

How do these scammers choose you? They use information from social networking sites, telephone listings, obituaries and other sources. They even call people randomly.

How do these scammers know the names of your relatives or friends? They sometimes get their information from social networking sites, obituaries and a variety of sources. In some cases they don’t know the name of your loved one and simply say, “Hi grandpa!” in hopes you will say, “John, is that you?”

What do these scammers usually say? They try to create a sense of urgency by stating they have been robbed or their car broke down. They’ll call in the middle of the night, so you are too tired to ask more questions and state they need the money right away. They are hoping since it is late at night you won’t call anyone else to verify the story. Beware the scammer may have an accomplice who will pose as an attorney or law enforcement officer to make their story more believable. No matter the story, they always want you to send money immediately.

If you realize you’ve been scammed, what can you do? These scammers ask you to send money through services such as Western Union and MoneyGram because they can pick it up quickly, in cash. Contact the money transfer service immediately to report the scam. If the money hasn’t been picked up yet, you can retrieve it, but if it has, it’s not like a check that you can stop – the money is gone.

What else can you do to protect yourself? If you get a call or email from someone claiming to know you and asking for help, check to confirm that it’s legitimate before you send any money. Ask personal questions only family members would know. Contact the person who they claim to be directly. If you can’t reach the person, contact someone else – a friend or relative of the person. Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real deal.

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