The Grandparent Scam
Even with all the coverage about “the grandparent scam,” the trick still works extremely well. What’s surprising is how often the scammers are successful. I’m not a big fan of Dr. Phil, but he did do good a segment with AARP scam expert Amy Nofziger in which they detailed the grandparent scam, how it works, and how to avoid it.
The grandparent scam works primarily because the person receiving the call is thrown off-balance emotionally by shock. It’s entirely possible the scammer has done some homework ahead of time. They may have checked social media and know the names of relatives and even what they like to do. Of course, the thought of a loved one being injured or in trouble is often enough to cause emotional distress, which is exactly what the scammer is counting on.
Tips to avoid the grandparent scam
- Ask questions only the real person would know. Amy Nofziger suggested “what is your dog’s name?” However, so many people post about their dogs these days that this might be unreliable. I’d suggest thinking up questions now so you won’t have to come up with these types of critical questions on the fly.
- If the caller asks for money via gift card or Western Union, hang up. After all, no legitimate law enforcement agency or company is going to accept payment via a gift card. And wiring money via Western Union is like sending cash.
- Often, the caller asks you to keep the call a secret. Don’t. Before sending any money, call your loved one at a known number to verify their safety. Never use a number provided by the scammer.
- Never give out your personal or financial information. This is a sure way to lose big.
- It wasn’t mentioned in the video, but I’d also suggest talking to your children and/or grandchildren and making plans for what might happen if they do get in trouble or are hurt. The grandparent scam is so prevalent, and lucrative, that it would make sense to plan ahead so you don’t become a victim.