You may have heard of the Grandparent Scam. A grandparent gets a phone call or an e-mail from someone who identifies as a grandchild. “I’ve been arrested in another country,” they say “and need money wired quickly to pay my bail. And oh by the way, don’t tell my mom or dad because they’ll only get upset!” This happens to unsuspecting people every day. At the Area Agency on Aging we have had calls related to the Grandparent Scam. It has happened so often we wanted to warn people not to fall for this scam. Recently the FBI reported the following incident in a press release “For example, the actual grandson may mention on his social networking site that he’s a photographer who often travels to Mexico. When contacting the grandparents, the phony grandson will say he’s calling from Mexico, where someone stole his camera equipment and passport,” Of course you would be inclined to do anything for your grandchildren. This is what is called “The Grandparent Scam.”
The Grandparent Scam has been around since 2008. Criminals have gotten craftier by using social media sites and learning about the person and sharing that personal information with the grandparents. It sounds frightening and real. If this happens to you the FBI recommends: Resist the pressure to act quickly, try contacting your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate and never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail…especially overseas.
Western Union gives the following advice related to the Grandparent Scam:
1. If you receive a phone call or email claiming a friend or family member needs cash, take a moment to review the situation. Does it make sense? Can you verify the emergency?
2. Call the person at a known telephone number, not a number given to you by the caller. Or, call a mutual friend or another relative and find out if he or she is aware of the situation.
3. Let your friend or family member know that you have received a call or email from the person requesting help. If the request turns out to be false, contact the police immediately.
4. Regardless of whether you are contacted by phone, email or some other means, be suspicious of requests to send money to “help a friend or family member out” unless you can verify the information you’ve been given with 100 percent confidence.
5. If you did send a money transfer through Western Union, and then realize that it was for a scam, contact the Western Union Fraud Hotline at 1-800-448-1492. If the transaction has not been picked up, it will be refunded to you.
6. Never send money to someone you have not met in person.
If you every feel like you have been a victim of a scam give us a call at 1-800-326-3221 or contact the Illinois Attorney General’s Office Senior Fraud Helpline at 1-800-243-5377.
Don’t let it happen to you!