Every parent or grandparent knows what it’s like to have their kids or grandkids call and ask them for help–often financial help. That’s simply par the course of being family. However, scammers know this, too, and they’re taking advantage of older people’s generosity.
A new wave of scams from people posing as grandchildren has seen Americans losing thousands of dollars. The next time you get a call from a distressed family member, take a moment to verify who you’re actually talking to.
If grandchildren who haven’t called in a while are suddenly asking you for money over the phone, take a moment before you send them anything. Ask them about things that didn’t happen, like, “Oh, do you remember Aunt Marie’s wedding?” You can also say things like, “It was so good to see you at your mom’s house last week!” If they pretend to agree with your fibs, then you’re more than likely not talking to your actual family.
Just to make sure, call or text your other family members and ask them to confirm that the person you’re talking to is actually a grandchild. Typically, calling around for a few minutes will tell you whether the person you’re talking to is the real deal.
Another common tactic used by scammers when targeting older people is to pose as law enforcement. On the phone, the scammer will claim that they’ve got your grandchild in custody and they need bail money. Don’t fall for this scam: law enforcement would never call you to collect money on behalf of a family member.
If your family is actually in legal trouble, you’d find out about it from them, not from the police. Moreover, law enforcement officers don’t call to collect funds over the phone. In reality, someone needs to wire the money to the county where the person is being held in order to fulfill bail.
Good general advice to help avoid being scammed is to remain calm and think critically. Never offer to send money over the phone, agree to buy a pre-paid gift card, or wire money. If you can’t put a check in their hands, then don’t give them anything. Giving your grandkids money when you’re face-to-face with them is always going to be a better option than wiring money to someone you’re hearing on the phone. Don’t wire anyone money unless you can verify through a third party that your family member is actually in trouble.