Q: My husband received a phone call from someone who addressed my husband as Grandpa. He said that he had been in a wreck and had a broken nose and that was why he sounded different, and was in a holding tank at jail and needed bail money. We don’t have a grandson, so we hung up. I thought others should be aware of this.
Answer: This is another version of the “grandparent scam” we have warned readers about in the past.
These scams are unfortunately common, with con artists trying to trick an unsuspecting person into sending money. While the scams are known as “grandparent scams” because they often target grandparents, they may also come from someone claiming to be a family friend, niece or nephew, or another family member.
Among the common scenarios, according to an FBI report on the scam:
- The grandparent gets a call or email from someone claiming to be his or her grandchild, often late at night or very early in the morning.
“Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged ... and needs money wired ASAP,” according to the FBI report. “And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.”
- Sometimes instead of claiming to be the grandchild, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, lawyer, doctor at a hospital or other authority figure. Or they start with the alleged grandchild and then hand the phone over to the other accomplice.
- Con artists also target military families. After seeing information on a soldier’s
- media, they will contact the grandparents, “sometimes claiming that a problem came up during military leave that
- money to address.”
In cases where you get a phone call like this, ask a lot of questions and check with other family members to see if they have been in touch with the person. Resist any pressure to act quickly, and never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an email, especially if it is going overseas, without checking into the situation more carefully.
“Wiring money is like giving cash,” the FBI says. “Once you send it, you can’t get it back.”
If you have fallen victim to a scam, the FBI recommends contacting local authorities or the state consumer protection agency.
If the scam came in through email, they also recommend filing a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov), “which not only forwards complaints to the appropriate agencies, but also collates and analyzes the data — looking for common threads that link complaints and help identify the culprits.”
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