I have written numerous times about the grandparent scam for seven years. By now, I am sure you are familiar with the basics of the grandparent scam where a grandparent receives a telephone call from someone purporting to be their grandchild who has gotten into some trouble, either a traffic accident, legal trouble or medical problems in a far away place. The caller pleads for the grandparent to wire some money immediately to help alleviate the problem. However the caller also begs the grandparent not to tell mom and dad. One would think that no one would be gullible enough to fall for this scam, but don’t be so hard on the victims of this scam. Scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists, have a knowledge of psychology of which Freud would have been envious and are able to use that knowledge to persuade their victims to send money right away. Often the scammers obtain information from social media accounts of the grandchildren and use that information to make them more believable when they call their victims. While wiring of funds is very often the method of payment demanded by the scammers, gift cards have also been used as a way of paying as well. Now, the Federal Trade Commission is reporting that some scammers are actually seeing the scammers demand payments in cash sent to the scammers through the mail, sometimes telling people to put the cash between the pages of a mailed magazine While it would seem that everyone is aware of this scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the amount of money lost to this scam went from 26 million dollars to 41 million dollars in the last year.
Sometimes the scammers do not know the name of their victim’s grandchildren, but often they do. Sometimes they get this information from perusing obituaries which may provide the names of the grandchildren so merely because the correct name is used in the call is no reason to believe the call. Don’t respond immediately to such a call without calling the real grandchild on his or her cell phone or call the parents and confirm the whereabouts of the grandchild. If a medical problem is the ruse used, you can call the real hospital. If legal problems are the ruse, you can call the real police. You can also test the caller with a question that could be answered only by the real grandchild, but make sure that it really is a question that only the real grandchild could answer and not just anyone who might read the real grandchild’ s Facebook page or other social media. As I always say, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”
Never wire money unless you are absolutely sure about to whom you are wiring the money and it is not a scam. Once you have wired money, it is gone forever. Requesting payment for anything by way of a gift card is an indication of a scam and sending cash in the pages of a magazine is also a part of an obvious scam. Also, 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.
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