Grandparent Scams surge During Spring Break

Picture of families with older relatives. Headline, Grandparent scams surge during spring break

What is a Grandparent Scam?

A grandparent scam is a form of an imposter scam that seeks to exploit the fact that many grandparents have a hard time saying “no” to their grandchildren.  The scammer will call and impersonate a grandchild or other close relative pretending to be in a crisis situation and in need of immediate money. 

The FCC has this to say about grandparent scams: 

“Scammers who gain access to consumers’ personal information – by mining social media or purchasing data from cyber thieves – can create storylines to prey on the fears of grandparents. The scammers call and impersonate a grandchild – or another close relative – in a crisis situation, asking for immediate financial assistance. Sometimes these callers “spoof” the caller ID to make an incoming call appear to be coming from a trusted source.

Often the imposter claims to have been in an accident or arrested. The scammer may ask the grandparent “please don’t let mom and dad know,” and may hand the phone over to someone posing as a lawyer seeking immediate payment.

Unfortunately, bad actors can now use artificial intelligence technology, commonly known as AI, and a short audio or video clip to “clone” a loved one’s voice, according to the Federal Trade Commission.”

Red Flags

Urgency – Many scams, this one included, try to pressure victims into acting immediately.

According to the FCC, “always use caution if you are being pressured for information or to send money quickly. Scammers often try to bully victims into transferring money through a mobile payment app, by wiring money, or by purchasing gift cards or money orders. Some may even request to meet to receive money in person. If you get a call like this, hang up and report it immediately to local law enforcement.”

Secrecy – The people claiming to be a relative or lawyer, law enforcement, etc. may request that information about the wire transfer be kept secret. 

     “I called you because I don’t want my parents to find out (or I’ll lose a scholarship, get kicked off the team, etc.)

Unknown Requestor – If you do not know, or cannot confirm the identity of, the person who is asking for money, that is a red flag.  

     “I’m calling from another phone because mine was lost (or the person on the phone says they are with law enforcement, a lawyer, etc)

Tips to Avoid Being Scammed

Verify Identity – Before sending any money, verify that the person that you are sending money to is who they say they are. This might mean corroborating the situation with another family member, calling them back on a known number, a video call, and calling a listed number for law enforcement or legal services.  To ease your mind, you can also call or text your family members directly to make sure they’re not in trouble.

Don’t Rush – Scammers will push you to make a decision in panic. Take your time to assess the situation. Speak with a trusted friend, family member or employee at your financial institution before you make a decision to send money.