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. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the grandparent scam has increased dramatically in the last few years. New York police are looking for a scammer who stole more than $100,000 from three New Yorkers aged 77, 81 and 83 using this scam. In these cases, the scammer actually came to their homes to collect the cash after making initial contact with his victims by phone calls claiming to be a lawyer representing their grandsons. New York police have release a photo and a sketch of the alleged scammer as shown below.
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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