Over the past couple of years I have written more than eight times about variations of what has come to be known as the Grandparent scam although this scam is not limited to grandparents. The scam starts with a phone call or email from a grandchild, other relative or friend who tells you that there has been some emergency and that he or she desperately needs you to wire money to him or her. The emergencies range from medical emergencies, being a victim of a crime to being charged with a crime. Scam artists are not called artists for nothing. They are adept at psychology and may be armed with personal information that they gather on line, often from social media that will lead you to believe that you are communicating with a real family member or friend in need. If you wire the money to the scam artist, it is gone forever. It is impossible to get back money you have wired. Christmas time is a big time for this scam as people may be traveling and the pleas may sound even more realistic at this time of year.
Check out the archives of Scamicide using the search words “grandparent scam” for detailed tips for avoiding the grandparent scam. First and foremost, however, whenever you are asked to wire money, you should immediately become skeptical. If a claim about a medical or legal emergency is made, contact the hospital or legal authorities in the area to confirm that the information is accurate. Make sure that you have the cell phone numbers of anyone with whom your child or grandchild is traveling so you can confirm any calls claiming that an emergency has arisen. Call the child directly on his or her cell phone to confirm the story. Students traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/. This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.