Sunday, September 10th is National Grandparents Day which is a great time to talk to the seniors in your life about scams.
Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York works every day to inform the public about scams that target seniors, including the “Grandparent Scam.” It’s designed to fool seniors into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, arrested, or stranded and in need of money.
What is the Grandparents Scam?
Family emergency scams can happen to anyone because scammers are good at making up an urgent situation: “I’ve been arrested,” “I’ve been mugged,” “I’m in the hospital” — and target friends and family with pleas for help…and money. Oftentimes, scammers gear their pitch towards unsuspecting seniors with a plea that appears to be coming from their grandchild.
Why are seniors targets?
BBB says there are several reasons, including:
They are more likely to be at home to answer the phone or door,
They tend to be more trusting of others,
Some are lonely or susceptible to a friendly pitch, or
They may need the help being offered and just want to get a job done as quickly as possible – skipping necessary research.
BBB offers these steps that families can take to avoid scams:
Know the red flags. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild. The “grandchild” explains that he or she is in trouble and needs help. The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they send money to post bail, repair a car, cover lawyer’s fees, or even to pay hospital bills for a person the grandchild has supposedly injured in a car crash.
Stay calm. Emergency scams count on an emotional reaction. It’s important to resist the pressure to act quickly or react to a caller’s distress. Tell them you’ll call back and ask for a number. If the call involves a grandchild – contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate, and confirm the whereabouts of the grandchild.
Don’t disclose too much information. BBB advises everyone not to reveal any personal identifying information to solicitors. Scammers like to say, “It’s me, Grandma,” hoping to get a name out of the person. Don’t respond with a name, but let the caller explain who they are. People should also not share too much travel information on social media.
Avoid phone and email schemes. Let seniors know about phishing scams including calls or email solicitations claiming great deals or sob stories that need immediate action. Never respond at that moment, instead, take the information and check out the claims. Never give away personal or financial information to anyone without verifying you are dealing with a legitimate company.
Create a family code. One easy way to communicate and confirm someone’s identity is to have a code word. You ask a simple question that the family member would know such as the name of a cousin or pet. Be careful not to ask something identifiable via a social media profile (such as the name of the grandchild’s school).
Share information. Families should provide cell phone numbers and email addresses of friends they are traveling with in the case of an emergency, and family members should be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.
Be careful at the front door. Scammers can spot exterior home repairs from the street. These repairs can be risky business if your senior family member doesn’t know or trust the contractor or business, so always check with BBB for a contractor’s BBB Business Profile.