A scam that once targeted grandparents has struck again, according to the FBI.
The scam is specific to grandparents, as it plays on their emotions, specifically through phone calls from their supposed grandchildren in dire situations asking for money.
One example cited by an FBI field office says a grandparent could get a call from a grandchild overseas who has otherwise been locked up abroad and needs money.
This con is not new, as it has been around since 2008. But as years have passed, the scam has become more complex.
"For example, the actual grandson may mention on his social networking site that he's a photographer who often travels to Mexico. When contacting his grandparents, the false grandson will say he's calling from Mexico, where someone stole his camera equipment and passport," the FBI reported in a press release.
Con artists get their information via social networking, making their calls seem realistic.
Other examples of cons people may experience:
- A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a “grandchild.” If it is phone call, it’s often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking that clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident or being mugged – and needs money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.
- Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital or some other authority. The false grandchild often talks first and then hands the phone over to an accomplice to further the story.
FBI officials suggest not acting quickly if individuals receive a phone call of this nature, but to contact family members to find out for sure if suspicious phone calls are legitimate.
If you feel you’ve been scammed, contact your local state consumer protection agency and local authorities.
This scam joins the rank of the Nigerian scam – a common variation that deals with a man in Africa who claimed a relative has died, and that he wants to leave millions of dollars of his estate to a good church.
“Make money fast” chain e-mails are also common, in which a classic pyramid scheme works with an email of list of names, asking each recipient to send 5 dollars by mail to the person whose name is at the top of the list, add their own name to the bottom, and forward the updated list to a number of others.
“Being smart is NOT enough to protect yourself from Internet scams,” according to scambusters.org. There are thousands of scams out there, and even though one may consider him or herself “e-smart,” the people who set them up have users of all levels in mind.
Edited by Braden Becker