"Is this you Billy. How are you?"
"Actually, I'm in some trouble, and don't want Mom and Dad to know..."
Seems like an ordinary phone call from your grandchild, right? It may be -- at least until the caller claims that he needs cash to fix a car, get out of jail, or leave a foreign country. He begs you to wire money right away and to keep the request confidential. If you think that sounds like a red flag, you are right.
The SunSentinel recently reported about the Grandparent Scam and it drew lots of calls and emails from readers from Miami to Orlando. They have highlighted their tales of hits or near misses to help raise awareness to the once popular "Grandparent Scam" that is recirculating.
Victims of this scam often don't realize they've been tricked until days later when they speak to their grandchild and he knows nothing about the phone call.
By then, the money the grandparent wired is not only long gone, but so is their peace of mind.
Scammers usually pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies like Western Union and Money Gram because wiring money is the same as sending cash. The chances of recovery are slim to none.
The FTC says the number of complaints about this type of scam is on the rise. In some cases, the scammers know the names of family members and manage a deft impersonation. In others, they trick a grandparent into giving up a grandchild's name. The callers often claim to be in Canada and ask that the money be wired there. Sometimes, a third person gets in the act, pretending to be a police officer or bondsman to confirm the bogus story.
In a variant of this scam, you may receive a call from someone identifying himself as an officer from another country calling on behalf of your grandchild who has been arrested -and you guessed it, the grandchild needs bail money.
Regardless of the particulars, a grandparent's concern for their grandchild often can outweigh their usual skepticism -and that's exactly what the bad guys bank on. .
If you get a call from a family member asking you to wire money, don't panic -- and do resist the urge to act immediately.
The FTC says:
* Try to verify the caller's identity by asking personal questions a stranger couldn't answer.
* Resist the pressure to act immediately; don't be afraid to use a phone number you know to be genuine to call back. If you don't have the relative's phone number, get in touch with the person's parent, spouse, or another close family member to check out the story before you send any money, even if you've been told to keep the event a secret.
* If you can't reach a family member and still aren't sure what to do, call your local police on the non-emergency line. They can help you sort things out.
* No matter how dramatic the story, don't wire money. Don't send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier, either. Con artists recommend these services so they can get your money before you realize you've been cheated.
* Report possible fraud at ftc.gov or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, go to ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Warn your friends, family and especially seniors you know, who may not be aware of this particular scam -or any of the many various known scams, that are circulating today.
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