Spotting Grandparent Scams

Spotting Grandparent Scams

When it comes to our grandchildren, there’s nothing we wouldn’t do for them. Unfortunately, scam artists know this. Because they will use any tactic necessary to separate you from your money, they won’t think twice about exploiting a grandparent’s love and concern for their grandchildren. This type of fraud is called a grandparent scam.

Grandparent scams have been around for a while, but scammers are becoming more advanced, thanks to social media and the Internet. Let’s take a look at what grandparent scams are, how to spot them, and ways to avoid falling victim to them.

What Are Grandparent Scams?

Grandparent scams are a type of financial fraud where scammers impersonate a grandchild or other family member who is in distress and needs immediate financial help. These fraudsters play on the emotions of senior citizens by using fear and urgency to manipulate them into sending money.

Scammers often start by gathering basic information about their targeted individual - including their name and the names of family members - from publicly available sources like social media.

Once the scammers have the details they need, they’ll call or email the targeted grandparent pretending to be a law enforcement official, hospital staff member, or a lawyer, claiming their relative is in trouble. They may fabricate a story about an accident, legal trouble, or a medical emergency. It might go something like “I’ve been detained in Jamaica. Don’t tell Mom or Dad!” Then, the scammer will persuade the grandparent to send money immediately to pay their bail or medical expenses. They frequently ask for money to be sent through wire transfers, gift cards, or money transfer services.

If the initial attempt fails, scammers may make subsequent calls, further exploiting the victim’s vulnerability and requesting more money.

Warning Signs

To protect you or your loved ones against fraudsters, it’s important to be vigilant and recognize the warning signs of a scam. To detect and avoid grandparent scams, look for common red flags, such as:

  • Urgent solicitation of funds or important information. Scammers use emotional pleas, panic, and urgency to pressure grandparents into acting without verifying information. Always take a step back, think about the situation, and don’t rush into sending money or giving them information (like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number).

  • Request of secrecy. Fraudsters will insist on keeping the conversation secret from other family members, preventing the victims from seeking advice or verification.

  • Lack of personal information. Scammers won’t often reveal specific details about themselves or the situation they claim to be in, relying on the victim to fill in the gaps.

  • Unconventional payment methods. They may ask for payments through wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency, as these methods offer little to no recourse for the victim.

Protecting Yourself or a Loved One

  • Limit the amount of personal information available online. Adjust your privacy settings on your social media accounts to limit access to your posts and photos to only people you’re familiar with.

  • If someone claiming to be your loved one has a suspicious request, hang up immediately and contact the family member to ensure they’re safe.

  • Reduce the frequency of fraudulent calls by utilizing caller ID and scam-blocking services.

  • If you receive a suspicious call, report it to your local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or at 877.382.4357.

Grandparent scams are a heartbreaking reality of scammers’ cruelty. By being aware of the tactics used by scammers and alert to any suspicious activity, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to their schemes.

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