An elderly Illinois couple was awakened by a phone call from their vacationing grandson, who claimed he had been arrested and needed $3,900 for bail.
With families traveling over the summer months, the door is open for fraudsters to target seniors with a scam in which they are led to believe a young family member is in trouble and needs money. This is a scam for all seasons, but the Better Business Bureau recently issued an advisory to alert vacationing families.
This senior scam is known as the “Family Emergency Scam” or the “Grandparent Scam.” Scammers use social networks such as Facebook to gather a family’s personal information, hack into address books or just place random calls or emails. They tend to call early in the morning or late in the evening the better to disorient their elderly victims.
Here is a typical case: An elderly Illinois couple was awoken early one morning by a phone call. On the line was someone who sounded like their grandson, who was vacationing in Mexico with his parents. He claimed he had been arrested and needed $3,900 for bail. His distraught grandmother frantically sent her husband to the bank as soon as it opened. He withdrew the money, but he had some suspicions and delayed sending it as directed by “authorities.” When they called back, the quick-thinking man directed the caller to ask his grandson what college he would be attending in the fall. The caller hung up.
This couple was lucky. This senior scam exploits the elderly’s devotion to family by making them believe a loved one has been involved in an emergency and needs cash immediately. Since 2010, the Federal Trade Commission has received more than 40,000 complaints about the senior scams. Losses have reportedly been in the tens of millions. Many cases are unreported due to embarrassment.
The BBB has issued these tips to help family members avoid the senior scam:
· Never wire money to someone you have not met in person
· Ask questions to which only a family member would know the answer.
· Never send money for an emergency situation without verifying through other friends and family member that it is a real emergency. Ignore the caller’s plea not to tell others.
· Never give your banking information to unknown individuals
· Fraudsters play on emotion. Sometimes they instantly express feelings of love and other times they lead their victims along, the BBB cautions. You should be suspicious if someone starts asking for information like credit card or Social Security numbers.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.