We live in a great, big wonderful world filled with love, magic, and opportunity aplenty, but unfortunately, there exists a dark underbelly that is just as vast. One of its most financially-damaging facets is the world of scamming, one that has grown even larger in recent decades due to the meteoric rise of internet communication. Chances are, you’ve either been scammed or had someone attempt to scam you–and we’re betting that either (or both!) experiences have made you more careful about your online correspondences.
We all know about the classic “Nigerian prince” scam, but it seems that there is another widespread con on the rise–and this one is preying on grandparents. Yes, sweet, old, GRANDPARENTS! How evil is that?!
The so-called ‘grandparent scam’ is actually being used, by in large, through the phone, as the elderly victims that the crooks target are easier to contact this way. That said, Fraud.org reports that they have been seeing more and more grandparents getting scammed via email and other online messaging services.
Here’s how a typical interaction between a scammer and a grandparent goes down:
- The scammer will contact a grandparent via phone or email, claiming to be this person’s grandson or granddaughter. The scammer says that they need funds wired to them immediately due to an emergency, like unforeseen lawyer’s bills, hospital fees, etc.
- The grandparent, believing that they are communicating with their grandson or granddaughter follows the scammers instructions, either wiring money directly into a bank account, sending a money order, or purchasing a large number of gift cards.
- Once the transaction is completed, the scammer vanishes and the grandparent is out hundreds or sometimes even thousands of dollars.
Incredibly, data from the Federal Trade Commission reveals that a whopping 25% of cash fraud losses by people 70+ are caused by none other than these grandparent scams. It’s an all-too-common problem that organizations and advocacy groups that the world over are trying to change.
So, how do you know if you or a loved one are being sucked into–or have already been sucked into–one of these cruel scams? Our friends at the AARP have a few tips. Here’s its smart list of Dos for the elderly to avoid these scams:
Do set the privacy settings on your social media accounts so that only people you know can access your posts and photos. Scammers search Facebook, Instagram and other social networks for family information they can use to fool you.
Do ask questions someone else is unlikely to be able to answer, such as the name and species of your grandchild’s first pet.
Do say you’ll call right back, then call your grandchild’s usual phone number. With luck, he or she will answer, and you’ll know that the supposed emergency call is a scam.
Do contact other family members or friends and see whether they can verify the story. Scammers plead with you to keep the emergency a secret precisely so you won’t try to confirm it.
If you speak to someone who claims to be a police officer, do call the relevant law enforcement agency to verify the person’s identity and any information they’ve given you.
Do trust your instincts. As the American Bar Association advises, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten the above memo. As a matter of fact, a Massachusetts cab driver has saved not one, but TWO customers from this very scam. To meet this taxi driving hero and to get more info from the authorities about this common swindle, be sure to watch the video below.
What’s your take on the ‘grandparent scam’? Do you know anyone who has fallen victim to it? If so, what happened? Did they receive any help from the authorities?