After receiving calls from consumers, the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Nevada and Utah is warning grandparents and family members about “emergency” scams designed to fool them into thinking their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded and in need of money.
Scammers impersonate their victims and make up an urgent situation — “I’ve been arrested,” “I’ve been mugged,” “I’m in the hospital” — and target friends and family with urgent pleas for help and money.
“It’s an emotional scam,” Jane Driggs, BBB president, said. “These scammers are using the emotional family connection to convince people to give up their hard-earned money.”
BBB offers the following tips to help people avoid the grandparent scam:
Know the red flags. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as a grandchild. The “grandchild” explains he or she is in some kind of trouble and needs help. The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks they wire thousands of dollars for reasons such as posting bail, repairing a car, covering lawyers fees or even paying hospital bills.
Stay calm. Emergency scams count on an emotional reaction. It’s important to resist the pressure to act quickly or react to the caller’s distress. Tell them you’ll call back and ask for a number, then contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate and confirm the whereabouts of the grandchild.
Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a caller says, “It’s me, Grandma,” don’t respond with a name; instead, let the caller explain who he or she is. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question the grandchild would know, such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name. Your family might consider developing a secret code or password that can be used to verify a true emergency.
Don’t wire money. Wiring money is like giving cash; once you send it, you can’t get it back. If you’re asked to wire money based on a request made over the phone, especially to locations overseas, consider it a serious red flag. Always make certain of the recipient’s identity before using a wire service or prepaid debit cards.
Communicate. Students should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country. Parents are encouraged to let extended family members know when their child is traveling.
Share information. Students should provide cell phone numbers and email addresses of friends they’re 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.