The FBI is warning citizens to be aware of the resurfacing of “grandparent scammers” — cons who target elderly people and can cost them thousands of dollars.
Scammers Call Grandma, Impersonate Grandchild in Distress
According to the FBI field office in San Diego, Calif., a typical scam goes something like this:
“You’re a grandparent, and you get a phone call or an email from someone who identifies himself as your grandson. “I’ve been arrested in another country,” he says, “and need money wired quickly to pay my bail. And, oh by the way, don’t tell my mom or dad because they’ll only get upset!”
The scam has been around since about 2008, but the advancements in technology have made it more rampant. Scammers now have access to Internet and social media websites to research potential targets, the FBI warns.
“For example, the actual grandson may mention on his social networking site that he’s a photographer who often travels to Mexico. When contacting the grandparents, the phony grandson will say he’s calling from Mexico, where someone stole his camera equipment and passport,” the FBI reported in a press release on Monday.
Other Common Grandparent Scams
1. A grandparent receives a phone call or email from a “grandchild.” If it is phone call, it’soften late at night or early in the morning when most people are not thinking clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has been arrested, involved in an accident or mugged — and needs money wired ASAP. The caller does not want his or her “parents” notified.
2. Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be a cop, a lawyer or a doctor. The FBI has also received complaints about the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice to further spin the fake tale.
3. The FBI has also received reports of military families victimized. 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.
While the con is commonly called the “grandparent scam,” criminals may also claim to be a family friend, a niece or nephew, or another family member.
Financial losses in these situations can be substantial and usually cost the victim several thousand dollars. Those amounts do not meet the FBI’s financial thresholds for opening an investigation, however victims can seek assistance from their local authorities or state consumer protection agency.
What To Do if You Encounter This Scam
If you find yourself in a situation where someone is contacting you for money, we at Scambook advise you resist the pressure to act quickly and try to contact the grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an email. Wiring money is like giving cash — once you send it, you cannot get it back.
Scambookers, have any of you experienced this recently? Please leave your comment below or submit a complaint here.