Scammers exploit every opportunity and the upcoming college Spring Break vacation period is a tremendous opportunity to scam students and their parents. Similar to the Grandparent scam which I have described in an earlier Scam of the Day, it often involves the parents or grandparents of a student who is away from home on vacation receiving a telephone call from a third party telling them that their child or grandchild has had a medical emergency or has been arrested and needs cash for emergency expenses, bail or a lawyer. Generally, they advise that the cash be wired, which is always a cause of concern because once money has been wired, it is gone. It is not like a credit card charge that can be put back on to your credit card if the charge is shown to be fraudulent. Often the scammers get the names and telephone numbers of the vacationing students and their parents from the students’ cell phones which they may leave unattended on a beach, in a backpack or some other unsecure location.
Never wire money unless you are absolutely sure about to whom you are wiring the money and it is not a scam. 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.