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 resolve 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. The Federal Trade Commission is now warning people about a new version of this scam in which the grandparents receive a call purportedly from a grandchild who is ill with the Coronavirus and needs immediate funds sent to him or her.
Recently a Wisconsin woman was scammed out of $7,500 by a scammer posing as her granddaughter who needed money because she claimed she had just been arrested for drunk driving. The victim sent the money by Federal Express the next day. The scammers then attempted to trick their victim into sending an additional $12,800 allegedly for medical costs and to settle a civil action related to the alleged drunk driving, but the victim who had already lost $7,500 to the scammers sensed something was wrong and refused to send the payment. Later that day she found out that her granddaughter was fine.
Sometimes the scammers do not know the name of their victim’s grandchildren, but often they do. Sometimes they get this information from reading obituaries which may contain the names of 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 hook 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.
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. 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.
Here is a video created by the FTC that tells you more about the grandparent scam.
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For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.” Scamicide’s list of Coronavirus scams was recently featured in the New York Times.