You answer, and your fears are confirmed: It’s bad news. Your sister is in the hospital. Your nephew is in jail. Your old college buddy is captive in Bangladesh and the police need a bribe to let him leave. They need money, and they need it now.
The good news is your friend or family member is probably safe. The bad news is you are probably being scammed. This is the set up for some of the most heartbreaking scams we come across here at Scambook. The con-men behind these cruel ruses play upon our worst fears and our willingness to help our friends and family in need. You see a loved one in dire straits, and yourself as the only person who can come to the rescue. This is the exact place the scammers want you to be: either you wire them money in the dead of night, or your friend or family member suffers.
Keep it Together!
The scammers put you between a rock and hard place, so you have to be tough. The last thing you would want is to hurt your loved ones because you are afraid of being ripped off, but the best way to avoid this from happening is take a step back, breathe, and assess the situation.
When bad news catches us off guard, we can be jarred out of our common sensibilities. We don’t stop to think “What is Cousin Earl doing in Manitoba? He hates the cold!” or “Susan can’t be in jail! She’s supposed to be with her parents!” But this is exactly what you should do. Does the situation make sense? Would your loved one be in that situation? If you don’t know, don’t be embarrassed to call someone who does.
Sound the Horn!
This is often called the Grandparent Scam because it preys on the protective nature of grandparents. A ‘lawyer’ will call and explain that your grandson is in jail, somewhere not too far away but far enough to be unfamiliar (often Quebec). Sometimes, a person will even impersonate your loved one and specifically ask you to not call anyone else. You want to get him out of harm’s way, but you don’t want to call his own parents because it would worry them and get him in more trouble.
Call them. They know if little Johnny really is in Quebec, or would have any reason to be. His parents will be just as worried as you are at first, but after you work together and make a few phone calls, you will all be relieved to find he is exactly where he is supposed to be. The only thing that was ever in danger was your hard earned money.
Do your research!
If it’s not a lawyer but a ‘hospital’ asking you to wire them money for your injured relative or friend, look up the actual hospital in an online telephone directory. Search for it on Google and even Google Maps to make sure it really exists. Then call the official number posted on the internet and ask if the person is there and if they asked you to send money. They will explain to you that you are being scammed. This isn’t medieval times, and a doctor is not going to sit around waiting for a cash advance to be wired to him or her before saving someone’s life.
So you kept your head on straight and avoided being scammed. Everyone is safe and sound, but now you wonder, how did this happen? How did they know your details or the particulars about your family and friends? A lot of this information can be found on the internet. Be careful to not post personal data online, and make sure the websites that you do business with are reliable and secure. Also, report your scam to the Federal Trade Commission and don’t forget to share here on Scambook. With your help, we can educate others and prevent these cruel criminals from exploiting another caring friend or relative.