Each summer, students look forward to the opportunity to trade their studies for some fun in the sun. Unfortunately, it’s also the time when the Better Business Bureau receives an increase of “grandparent scam” reports. While the scam has been around for years, it continues to proliferate as one variation of the imposter scams that dupe thousands of consumers every year.
Here’s how it works.
The grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild who claims they are traveling abroad and are in trouble. The “grandchild” might claim he or she caused a car accident or is in trouble with the law and requires money to be wired immediately. Victims may also be contacted by someone claiming to be a police officer or lawyer representing the grandchild in court. In either case, the “grandchild” pleads with the grandparents to not tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons that include posting bail, repairing the grandchild’s car, covering lawyer’s fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.
A grandparent’s worst nightmare is to find out that their grandchild has been injured or is in a catastrophic situation. With access to a potential lifetime of savings, seniors are prime targets for scam artists whose intent is to take advantage of their desire to help a loved one.
The BBB provides tips to help keep consumers from falling prey to the grandparent scam:
- Communicate. Share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.
- Share information. Provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.
- Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, the BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their grandchild. If a caller says “It’s me, Grandma!” don’t respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know, such as what school he or she goes to or the name of the family pet or where they work.
Know the red flags. The common factors in these calls are:
- The grandparent receives a frantic phone call.
- The “grandchild” explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs help.
- The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents.
- The “grandchild” asks that they wire thousands of dollars to be used to post bail, repair the car, cover lawyer’s fees or pay hospital bills for the grandchild or a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.
If you do fall victim to the grandparent scam, report the incident immediately to the BBB and local police.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report a fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, go to BBB Scam Tracker or call the BBB Hotline: 903-581-8373.