I am sure most 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, most commonly a traffic accident, legal trouble or medical problems in a far away place. The caller pleads for the grandparent to send 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 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. While this scam has been going on for approximately thirteen years, it continues to victimize people. Recently, a federal grand jury in San Diego indicted eight defendants for their roles in a national criminal network of criminals who are accused of swindling more than two million dollars from more than seventy elderly people across the country. As is most often the case, the crimes were initiated through a phone call in which the accused criminals impersonated the grandchildren of their intended victims although in some instances, the alleged criminals impersonated lawyers calling purportedly on behalf of the grandchildren. In all of the cases, the alleged criminals convinced the victims that their grandchildren were in imminent need of money for bail, medical expenses for car accident victims or to prevent criminal charges from being filed. In some instances, the alleged criminals persuaded their victims to wire money to the alleged scammers while in other instances they told the victims to mail the money and in some instances, the alleged criminals even came to the homes of their victims to collect the money.
Sometimes the scammers do not know the name of their victim’s grandchildren, but often they do. In the San Diego case, the alleged criminals used the nicknames of the grandchildren when speaking to their intended victims. Sometimes they get this information from social media while in other instances 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.
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 was recently cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.
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