BBB asks: Do you know where your relatives are?

Posted on March 20, 2019 by SUBMITTED

Spring Break is a perfect scenario for Emergency scams (commonly referred to as the Grandparent scam). Scammers prey on your willingness to help friends and family in need. They impersonate their targets’ loved ones, make up an urgent situation, and plead for help … and money. Thanks to social media sites, scammers can offer plausible stories and incorporate nicknames and real travel plans into the con to convince their targets.

How the Scam Works:

Emergency scams are about a family member or friend in a dire situation. You get a call, email, or social media message from someone claiming to be a family member in distress. They may say they’ve been arrested while traveling overseas, or there was an accident, medical emergency, or other calamity. They provide convincing details, such as family names, school details, etc.

A common version is the “grandparent scam,” where the con artist contacts a grandparent claiming to be their grandchild and asking for money. The plea is so persuasive that the grandparent sends money to the scammer, only to find out later their family member was safe and sound all along.

A newer version of this scam is when someone ‘spoofs’ your relatives’ phone number to make it look like they are actually calling. You pick up and are told that your relative has been kidnapped and you cannot talk with them until the ransom has been paid – either by pre-paid gift card or bitcoin.

Tips to Spot This Scam: 

  • Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is. Check out the story with other family and friends, but call directly. Don’t call the phone number provided by the caller or caller ID. Ask questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer correctly. 
  • Know what your family members are sharing online. You may not have control over your family’s social media accounts, but familiarize yourself with what they are sharing online.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.