Don’t become a victim of the ‘grandparent scam’

scam-alert-pic-150x150The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reports receiving a continued stream of complaints about alarming phone calls from scammers who claim a relative is in an emergency and needs money fast. Sometimes the scammer pretends to be the relative in danger. It’s a scam that often preys on seniors and it’s sometimes referred to as the “grandparent scam.”

We’ve talked about the grandparent scam a number of times on WatchYourBuck.com, but it never hurts to mention it again. The scammers tell potential victims not to tell other family members. They also sometimes pretend to be officials, like police officers or lawyers. They give instructions on how to wire money to the “bail bondsman” or other official in order to free the relative.

Callers hide their identities by spoofing phone numbers. IC3 reports scammers claiming to be in Canada, Mexico, Haiti, Guatemala and Peru–among other countries.

BBB offers these tips to avoid becoming victim to a grandparent scam:

  • Be skeptical. Ask questions only the grandchild could know the answer to, without revealing too much personal information yourself. Ask the name of a pet, a favorite dish or what school they attend. Your loved one should not get angry about you being too cautious.
  • Verify information. Check with the parents to see if their child is really travelling as they say they are.
  • Don’t wire money. Never use a transfer service to send money to someone you haven’t met in person, or for an emergency you haven’t verified is real.
  • Stay private. Check your privacy settings on all your social media sites. Scammers often make their stories more believable by trolling for information on Facebook, Twitter and similar sites.
  • Know where to turn. If you fall victim to a scam, report the incident immediately to local police and your state Attorney General’s office.
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