With Grandparents Day approaching this Sunday, the Better Business Bureau is warning seniors to be on the lookout for a fraud scheme commonly referred to as the “Grandparent Scam.”
The scam typically works as follows: A grandparent receives a phone call late at night from the scam artist who claims to be one of his or her grandchildren. The phony grandchild is in a panic, saying that it’s an emergency situation and he/she needs money immediately. The sense of urgency that the scam artist creates makes the concerned grandparents act quickly – and all too often without verifying who is actually calling.
Recent research from the Consumer Sentinel Network shows a steady increase in impostor scam reports over the past several years, from just above 60,000 in 2010 to close to 83,000 in 2012. The Grandparent Scam is one of the most common types of impostor scams targeting senior citizens.
And while the Grandparent Scam has been around for years, it has become more sophisticated thanks to the advent of social media. Now, scam artists have the Internet and other Web tools and programs at their disposal not only to more easily uncover personal information about their targets but also to make their impersonations that more believable.
Another common fake scenario associated with the Grandparent Scam includes the scam artist getting the grandparent to wire or send money on the pretext that the victim’s child or another relative is in the hospital and needs the money. Sometimes the scam artist might call and pretend to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, or a doctor at a hospital. The phony grandchild may talk first and then hand the phone over to an accomplice of the impersonator to add further “credibility” to the scam.
The BBB offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of the Grandparent Scam:
Be skeptical. Without revealing too much personal information yourself, ask questions that only the grandchild could know the answer to. Examples include the name of a favorite pet, a favorite dish or what school they attended. 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.
If you or a loved one becomes a victim to an imposter scam, report the incident immediately to local police and your state Attorney General’s office.