Imposter Scams: Are You or Your Grandparent a Victim?
You value the older adults in your life, from your aunts and uncles to your parents and grandparents. In a perfect world, no one enjoying their retirement would ever be scammed. Seniors over the age of 70 should be able to spend time with family & friends and pursue their hobbies. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. The Consumer Sentinel Network reports a high number of retirees are tricked out of cash.
In 2018, there was a dramatic increase in the (median) dollar amount which people age 70 and up lost money due to fraud. Many in this age group reported losing large amounts of cash to scammers (who pretended to be their grandchild, family members, or friends). Since the median cash amount lost was $9,000, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has spoken up about this sharp increase.
Your grandparents would do anything for you, which is why these types of scams are so successful. Worryingly, Sentinel also reports that the median loss to friends and family imposters is about $2,000 (per all age groups), but the significant increase (+$7,000) in loss has happened to people age 70 and over.
Also, since these imposters pretend to be the very people grandparents love most, the FTC is working hard to educate the public against these types of crimes. Not only should you share this with others, but if you are a grandchild, be sure to share our article and warn your grandparents that this type of scam happens.
This is no small problem:
1 in 4 people age 70+ lost money by sending imposter cash in a “family and friend” scam. The general population only had this happen 1 in 25 times (compared to other types of fraud).
How Imposter Scams Work
- You receive a social media message, email, text, or phone call from your grandchild. The difference between this message and a real one is that the sender (who is impersonating your grandchild) immediately asks for money. This might be cash sent in an envelope, via pre-paid gift card, or even wired through Western Union, etc.
- The National Consumer League has warned that scammers will often make this call late in the evening, to confuse the victim. If you receive a late-night call, be suspicious. Be especially wary if the caller makes their need for cash sound urgent.
- Although the caller or person is sending the message typically pretends to be your grandchild, they might also imitate one of the following:
- An attorney or person representing your grandchild (such as a law enforcement agent, doctor, hospital). They will ask for help with unexpected bills, bail money, money due to an accident, legal or medical fees, etc.
- Despite the chaos and drama of the call, the imposter will typically be very clear and detailed about how you should send, wire, or transfer them money.
- They will give reasons why their money request should remain a secret. This is only to prevent you from finding out they aren’t whom they claim to be.
How to Prevent Imposter Scams
Stop and think (no matter how late you receive the call or how urgent it sounds). The more far-fetched and dramatic the story, the more likely it is to be fake.
Trust your instincts and consider if this situation sounds out of character for your grandchild.
Also, regardless of what the imposter says or how much they sound like or seem to be your grandchild, ask to call them back at their direct cell number. Scammers can “spoof” phone numbers and may appear to be calling from your grandchild’s cell or home number when they aren’t.
Even if they say that you should not tell their parents, call and verify where your grandchild is and if they have spoken to them recently.
Be careful what details you post about yourself or your grandchildren online. You can search for available information about you and your family on the web. You can also search the phone number that called you, to determine whom you’re speaking with.
Call the scammer’s bluff!
It is very rare that anyone needs money sent immediately in the middle of the night, especially via money wire. While keeping your grandchild safe is a priority to you, in most cases this type of financial request is a scam. Ask the caller something only your grandchild would know and wait until you have verified their need for the cash – with several trusted persons, before sending anything!
If the caller says they are calling from law enforcement or another office, look up the official phone number online and call to verify and ask questions. A law enforcement employee or police officer would not call you demanding money.
Report any money lost to the FTC by calling (877) 382-4357 or online: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1
You can contact Western Union about suspected fraudulent requests or wire transfers the moment you realize you’ve been tricked:
Contact MoneyGram at: (800) 926-9400 – see if the financial institution can stop the transaction or reimburse your money.
Not sure who called or messaged you and want to verify identity? Search Social Catfish for more information now:
Be informed and do your research before you EVER send or wire money. You can protect your money for when your grandchildren do need your help, instead of helping scammers trick yet another person.