Sep 13, 2021 6:52 AM

'Grandma, help!' emergency scams take advantage of loved ones

Posted Sep 13, 2021 6:52 AM

Better Business Bureau

Emergency scams, sometimes called "grandparent scams," prey on the willingness of an unsuspecting, worried individual to help friends and family in need. Often, they will impersonate their targets’ loved ones, make up an urgent situation, and plead for help… and money. Thanks to social media sites, scammers can look up information and offer plausible stories. They may even incorporate nicknames and real travel plans into the con to convince their targets. 

How the Scam Works:

Emergency scams are about a family member or friend in a dire situation. You get a call, email, or social media message from someone claiming to be a family member in distress. They may say they’ve been arrested while traveling overseas, or there was an accident, medical emergency, or other calamity. They provide convincing details, such as family names and school details.

A common version is the “grandparent scam,” where the con artist contacts a grandparent claiming to be their grandchild and asking for money. The plea is so persuasive that the grandparent wires money to the scammer, only to find out later their family member was safe and sound all along. This scam can also work in reverse, where the "grandparent" calls their grandchild pleading for help.

Tips to Spot This Scam: 

  1. Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is. Check out the story with other family and friends, but hang up or close the message and call your loved one directly. Don’t call the phone number provided by the caller or caller ID. Ask questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer correctly. 

  2. Know what your family members are sharing online. You may not have control over your family's social media accounts, but familiarize yourself with what they are sharing online.
     
  3. Don't wire any money if there is any doubt about the call. If a person does wire money and later realizes it is a fraud, the police need to be alerted. 

For more information:

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker. Learn more about all types of impostor scams

To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams."