You’re a grandparent, and you get a phone call or an e-mail from someone who identifies himself as your grandson. “I’ve been arrested in another country,” he says, “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 is an example of what’s come to be known as “the grandparent scam.”
Common scenarios include:
- A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a “grandchild.” 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. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.
- Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person.
- While it’s commonly called the grandparent scam, criminals may also claim to be a family friend, a niece or nephew, or another family member.
Advice to avoid being a victim of this scam:
- Resist the pressure to act quickly.
- Try to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
- Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail...especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash—once you send it, you can’t get it back.
- Federal Trade Comission: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0204-family-emergency-scams
- Federal Trade Comission: Pass it On Campaign - https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0030-pass-it-on