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BBB: Scammers targeting older adults using 'emergency scams'

'Emergency scams,' often called 'grandparent scams,' target people 65 and older by posing as a grandchild in distress, asking for immediate financial assistance.
Credit: WZZM

MICHIGAN, USA — The Better Business Bureau is warning people of a new scam that's targeting older adults. 

'Emergency scams', often called 'grandparent scams,' target people 65 and older by posing as a grandchild in distress, asking for immediate financial assistance. The BBB says these scams could cost victims thousands of dollars.

The FCC warns that these scammers persuade the victim into wiring them money by using urgent language and including convincing details like family names and personal information.

The BBB says a Michigan woman recently received a call from a scammer posing as their grandson, asking for $8,500 in bail money after hitting a pregnant woman with a car in New York City. As the grandmother was preparing to wire the funds, her husband came home. They soon found out this was a scam and that their grandson was safe in Montague, Michigan.

The BBB has laid out some tips to help you avoid the same situation.

Resist the urge to act immediately: Always pause to confirm the situation with a second source. These emergencies are never life-threatening.

Confirm the caller’s identity first: If the caller ID is unknown or suspicious, try to confirm the caller’s identity by asking questions that would be hard for an imposter to answer. Ask a question that only your relative would know, like “what is your middle name?” or “what did I give you for Christmas this year?” Never call a phone number given by an unknown caller and do not call back the unknown caller ID.

Never wire money to someone you don’t know: If they ask you to use wire transfer, a prepaid debit card, or a gift card, those cannot be traced and are as good as cash. Chances are, you won't see your money again. 

Communicate travel plans in advance: Make sure to let loved ones know if/when you are leaving town and include any itinerary details that may be important for them to know. If possible, provide the phone number of a travel partner as secondary contact in the case of an emergency. Also, be cautious of posting too much about your travels on social media. 

Verify information with family members: Scammers will often ask to keep the situation private to avoid embarrassment or because it is too urgent. However, you should call another source before acting to discuss the caller’s situation to ensure it is real. 

Report scams: Report the scam to the BBB ScamTracker and block the number. If money is wired and it is later realized that the caller was a scammer, alert the police immediately.

You can learn more about emergency scams here.


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