The grandparents scam is back.
“Grandma, it’s me! I’m in trouble!” If you get a call like this, chances are it’s scam.
A recent article from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle says the Monroe County Sheriff’s office is warning the elderly about the scam. They say the scammers are asking for iTunes gift cards in exchange for getting their grandchild out of trouble.
While the grandparents scam isn’t new, those calling are always changing the method of payment. This is the second report Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York has seen with the request for iTunes gift cards. In January, a report out of Chautauqua County to BBB’s Scam Tracker shows a similar scam with the same request.
BBB has tips to avoid the grandparents scam:
Know the red flags. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as a grandchild. The “grandchild” explains that he or she is in some kind of trouble and needs help. The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons such as posting bail, repairing a car, covering lawyer’s fees or even paying hospital bills.
Stay calm. Scammers are hoping for an emotional reaction. It’s important to resist the pressure to act quickly or react to the caller’s distress. Tell them you’ll call back and ask for a number; then contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate, and confirm the whereabouts of the grandchild.
Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a caller says “It’s me, Grandma!” don’t respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name. Your family might consider developing a secret code or password that can be used to verify a true emergency.
Do not wire money. Wiring money is like giving cash—once you send it, you can’t get it back. If you are asked to wire money based on a request made over the phone, especially to locations overseas, consider it a serious red flag. Always make certain of the recipient’s identity before using a wire service or pre-paid debit cards.
Communicate. Families should share travel plans with relatives before leaving the state or country. Parents are encouraged to let extended family members know when their child is traveling.
Share information. Students should provide cell phone numbers and email addresses of friends they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.