Grandparent scams are not new, but they have become more sophisticated in recent years, so they can be difficult to spot. Here is what you need to know about grandparent scams and how to avoid them.
How the scams play out:
There are several variations of the grandparent scam. In each one, the caller will claim to be a grandchild of the target. The scammer will often spoof the grandchild’s number so it shows up on the grandparent’s phone.
The legal trouble scam. In this ruse, a scammer who claims to be the grandchild of the target will call and claim to have been arrested. The “grandchild” will ask their grandparent to send money to post bail. They may also ask for funds to pay for legal representation. They will pass the phone to an alleged representative to accept the funds via wire transfer or gift cards. Of course, this is just another scammer who is in on the crime.
The medical trouble scam. This version of the grandparent scam involves a “grandchild” calling up Grandma or Grandpa and claiming to be seriously injured. They will ask for money to help pay the medical bills.
The international trouble scam. Most common during times when teens and/or young adults are likely to be traveling, such as during spring break or summer vacation, in this scam, a “grandchild” will call and claim they are in deep trouble while traveling. Of course, they will ask for a large sum of money via wire transfer or prepaid debit card to help them get out safely.
If you are targeted:
If you believe you have been targeted by any of these grandparent scams or a similar ruse, follow these steps to keep yourself safe:
Don’t take immediate action. The grandparent scam, like most scams, relies on creating a false sense of urgency so the target has very little time to stop and think about what is taking place. Beat them at their game by taking a step back and thinking rationally about the call you are receiving.
Ask a personal question. Your grandchild’s name is on the Caller ID and the caller sounds just like them – but are they really on the phone? Ask the caller to answer a personal question only your grandchild would know, such as a family memory, an important date or a private joke you share with your grandchild.
Check your grandchild’s whereabouts. If you are still unsure if your grandchild is really calling you, use another phone, or hang up on the call, and call your grandchild on your own. Chances are, your grandchild is perfectly safe and fine.
Hang up and report the crime. Once you have verified that you’ve been targeted by a scammer, hang up and report the scam to the police. Share as much information as you can. It is also a good idea to alert the FTC about the scam. If you have lost money through the scam, the FTC can help you determine your best next steps.
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