Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Grandparents Scam - Who is that Caller?

Everyone dreads the late night or early morning phone call that wakes you up from a deep sleep. Those calls usually end of being (1) bad news about a family member, or (2) a wrong number. A third reason for that untimely call is growing in popularity - a phone scam! Con artists are placing calls to elderly people in the middle of the night and claiming to be either a grandson or granddaughter in need of urgent financial help. The callers claim to have been in either an accident or some form of legal trouble where they need immediate access to funds to escape from their dire situation. These callers usually don't actually know the name of the grandchild but will rely on the grandparent to provide the name themselves in their confusion and concern. At times though the callers may have obtained names from a recent obituary notice or other public records search.

The caller will ask for either a credit card number to help them or request that a wire transfer be done as soon as their financial institution opens. The credit union recently had one of these attempts this past Friday where someone acting as a District Attorney placed a second call to the victim stating that the cash bond had been reduced if they could expedite the movement of the cash. Luckily the grandparent's real son in this scam attempt recognized the calls as fraudulent and contacted us about the fraud attempt. Unfortunately though there are hundreds of cases nationwide where thousands of dollars has been stolen in this manner from grandparents who thought they were helping out their loved ones.

When in doubt over any situation, verify the story and sources involved. A quick verification call to real family members would expose the scam. If a person is being held in a jail somewhere, obtain the police jurisdiction information and contact that police department independently with a telephone number that you obtain and verify on your own. A hospital story would work the same way. Find out the hospital name and location and verify a contact number either online or through directory assistance.

Be very cautious in any situation where you are being asked to transfer money, especially when urgency and privacy are highlighted by those requesting the transfer.