We’ve talked before about scam e-mails like the one pictured below.
Crooks send out e-mails claiming to be friends or relative stranded somewhere and in desperate need of help. One of their favorite cons is what’s called a “grandparent” scam. Crooks pretend to be a grandchild in trouble who needs money right away. Sometimes the “grandchild” is injured, sometimes in trouble with the law. These crook use e-mail and phone calls to bilk thousands of dollars from concerned grandparents. Recently in my area, there was a case where some called and said, “Grandpa, I’ve been in an accident.”
The grandfather said, “Billy?” And that gave the scammers a name to work with. So another crook takes the phone and says that Billy has been injured and needs money. But unlike some unfortunate grandparents who emptied their bank accounts, this local grandpa was smart enough to say, “Ask him what his father’s dog’s name is.”
The crooks hung up. If you’re concerned there could be an actual incident where a friend or relative needs your assistance, one idea is to have a code word or your very own security questions. But don’t make it an easy one to answer. If grandma’s favorite pie is apple that might be an easy one to guess. But if it’s mango jalapeno, you may be on to something.
Or it could be something simple like name all of Aunt Edna’s cats. If you can’t rattle off Mr. Peepers, Lucy, Damiano, Snuggles, and Moe – you’re getting hung up on.
This is an especially good idea if there’s someone in your life, you think might be susceptible to scammers.
Nearly all requests for help like this are scams. But if you have some doubt that a friend or relative might be in actual danger, there are some things you can do. You can look up the number of the hospital or police department the caller claims to be from and give the number a call to make sure it’s legitimate.
Check with other friends or family members. Is Billy really in Texas? Is the Johnson family really on an overseas trip? If a person is in trouble in a foreign country, you’ll want to contact the American Embassy (or the embassy from whatever country you happen to live in.)