Jul 15, 2012

Elder Abuse: Social Media keeps grandparent scam going strong

Back in 2010 we warned you about the "Grandparent Scam." It goes like this: A grandparent, other family member or friend receives a call about a loved one. The caller claims that the grandchild is in trouble - arrested or in the hospital, for example - and says funds must be wired immediately to assist the child. The caller advises the victim not to let anyone else know, because the child is embarrassed, or doesn't want to worry his parents. When the grandparent discovers she's been taken, she may keep the episode to herself for fear of making others think she is "losing it." 

The FBI reported this year that the Grandparents Scam is still with us. In fact, because of the prevalence of social media, the scammers have become even more adept. Callers can use personal information they've gleaned from Facebook and other social media to fill in details about the child in trouble - where he's traveling, his work, friends, etc. 

The FBI's 2012 post on this issue points out that these calls usually arrive late at night, when the victim is likely to be disoriented and confused. The connection may be poor (or made to sound poor), so if the "grandchild" himself calls, it is more difficult to determine if it's really him. He'll then turn the call over to his supposed doctor, lawyer, arresting office, hospital administrator, etc.

The FBI encourages you to never wire money, which is just like cash: once it's gone, it's gone. They also advise you to try not to panic, and resist the caller's demands that you act quickly. Then try to get in touch with the child who is supposedly in trouble, or his friends/neighbors/other relatives to determine if what you're hearing is indeed true.

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