The love between a grandparent and a child can be very strong – but, ironically, the strength of that bond can actually make families more vulnerable to scam artists. The grandparent scam has been around for awhile, but the use of social media is helping to fuel fraudsters’ ability to make money on it.
Here’s how it works: con artists will pose as a loved one, make up a story about some urgent need, and trick you into wiring money. Only later will you find out that your loved one was never actually in danger and that the money you sent is gone for good.
As we post more and more personal information on social media, we are making the whole thing easier for the fraudsters. Names, photos and info from your travels, school information and more can be a gold mine for the scam artists. They use this info to make a more convincing story. You could get a call, email, text, or social media message claiming to be a loved one in need. The alleged victim will ask you to send money to pay hospital bills, to get out of jail, to escape a foreign country, or to help deal with an auto accident. Sometimes it will be a story as simple as the victim’s purse was stolen. The scammers will urge you to keep quiet about their need for money and claim to be embarrassed in order to prevent you from looking into it further.
So, no matter how urgent or convincing the story might seem—check it out before sending cash.
Here are some tips:
If you have been victimized by this online scam or any other cyber fraud, be sure to also report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.