Fraud alert: Grandparent scam continues to trick people out of money
Send a link to a friend
(BPT) -- Imagine being wakened
by a phone call in the middle of the night. It's your crying
grandchild, who is asking for money because of an accident. Of
course you want to help your loved one, so you do whatever you can
in this emergency situation. You open your wallet without
Unfortunately you've just become a victim of a scam that is
happening across the country. Known as the "grandparent scam," this
type of fraud involves bogus calls from people claiming to be
relatives in trouble. The personal nature and urgency of these calls
causes people to let their guard down and act quickly without
verifying the validity of the call.
"Criminals often target older
people, but in reality anyone of any age can be a target of a scam,"
says Phil Hopkins, vice president of global security with Western
Union. "With more people sharing personal information online, such
as through social media websites, it's easier for criminals to learn
details of personal relationships so they can imitate loved ones by
name. Newspapers and obituaries are also good sources of personal
information, providing detailed relationship information."
Con artists may also impersonate attorneys, police officers or
bail bondsmen to create a sense of urgency and legitimacy. Add in
loud background noises, muffled voices or fuzzy phone lines, and
it's easy to believe someone is calling from jail or a remote
location where he or she may be in trouble.
In addition to calling victims, hackers use similar strategies to
target victims through email. Tapping into a person's address book,
scammers send emails or instant messages directly from the person's
email account, alerting friends and others of the "emergency" and
requesting funds. Do not respond to the email. To confirm the
situation, contact the person by other means.
"Awareness is the best defense against emergency scams," says
Hopkins. "These scams can be convincing, but it's important to keep
a few things in mind before you rush to help."
[to top of second
Hopkins recommends that you follow these tips to avoid becoming a
victim of the emergency scam or other types of fraud:
Call the person at
a known telephone number, not a number given to you by the
caller. Or, call a mutual friend or another relative and find
out if he or she is aware of the situation.
Let your friend or
family member know that you have received a call or email from
the person requesting help. If the request turns out to be fake,
contact the police immediately.
whether you are contacted by phone, email or some other means,
be suspicious of requests to send money to "help a friend or
family member out" unless you can verify the information you've
been given with 100 percent confidence.
If you did send a
money transfer through Western Union and then realize that it
was for a scam, contact the Western Union Fraud Hotline at
1-800-448-1492. If the transaction has not been picked up, it
will be refunded to you.
Never send money
to someone you have not met in person.
For more information on scams and for
more tips on how to help protect yourself from scams, visit