According to a new report recently released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports of the grandparent scam rose to almost 20,000 during a fifteen month period from late 2017 through 2018 at a cost of approximately 42 million dollars which is double the amount lost to this scam in the previous year. The average loss to victims of this scam was $9,000 which is much higher than the amount lost by victims of many other types of fraud.
Many of you are familiar with 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. During the recent college Spring Break an 86 year old Arizona woman fell victim to the grandparent scam after being convinced to send four separate cash payments by Federal Express totaling more than $30,000 to a scammer posing as her granddaughter. It wasn’t until the scammer called her again and referred to her as “Grandma” that the victim realized she had been scammed since her granddaughter did not call her “Grandma.”
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 name grandchildren by name 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. Also social media such as Facebook is perused by scammers looking for information they can harvest to make their scams more convincing. A grandchild’s apparent innocuous photo on social media that refers to “nana” can give information to a scammer to exploit.
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. Providing gift card information over the phone also is a quick way to lose money that you can never get back. Generally anytime someone asks for a payment by way of a gift card it is a 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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