The grandparent phone scam is the original phone scam to grandparents from scammers pretending to be their grandchild or a friend in need trying to solicit funds from unsuspecting victims.
Imagine receiving a telephone call that your grandchild has been in a car accident or is incarcerated in a foreign jail and immediately needs your help. The success of this type of phone scam is the grandparents’ emotions for their grandchild.
Fraudsters are not only connecting with grandparents by phone. Grandparents are now being tricked by email, text message, and social media, according to an AARP article shared earlier this summer on their website aarp.org.
To prevent becoming a victim, the Minnesota Attorney General website recommends that grandparents should verify that it is their grandchild by contacting the grandchild’s parents or asking a question only the grandchild would know the answer to. Second, grandparents need to resist pressure to send money quickly and secretly. Finally, do not send money through wire transfer or overnight delivery.
A couple in Lanesboro recently received a call that their grandson, who lives out-of-state, had been involved in a rear-end car collision and was in jail. The caller gave the couple the telephone number of a lawyer and instructed them to call him immediately. They needed to make arrangements to send $25,000 immediately.
A red flag. The grandparents were instructed not to tell anyone or to contact the bank.
The grandparents asked question after question, frustrating the caller and causing him to become defensive.
The grandparents were surprised that the caller knew so much personal information about their grandson. They knew where he was born, knew his parents’ and grandparents’ names, and date of birth.
The grandparents called their grandson around 7:30 a.m., which scared them when he did not answer. In an emotional situation, it is not a surprise that they forgot that their grandson gets off work at 3 a.m. and was asleep when they called. Not reaching him, they called their grandson’s mom, who called his girlfriend to confirm that he was all right.
The man’s mother did not want her name used because the family has already been on the receiving end of three such calls over the past year, and warned grandparents to, “Be aware. Don’t buy into it until you talk to someone or call your grandchild.”
The Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department has not been able to offer public presentations warning residents about telephone scams and offering advice since March 17 due to COVID-19.
If you receive a call as the Lanesboro grandparents did, Sheriff John DeGeorge reminds you, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
DeGeorge encourages grandparents not to be afraid to ask the caller questions and explains that “if the caller gets upset or defensive, you know it is a scam. Legitimate businesses will not get upset or defensive.”
Finally, DeGeorge implores residents to, “Please, please, please call us before you send any money if you are suspicious. Call (507) 765-3874 ,press option #1.” Many times it will only take a quick phone call for us to let you know it is a scam. If you are a victim, it may take weeks, months to get your money back. If you sent money to a foreign country, we might not be able to get your money back for you.”
The first thing to do is to register your telephone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. It will only take a couple of minutes to call the registry’s toll-free number, 1 (888) 382-1222, or register online at donotcall.gov. After 31 days, you can submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if you do receive a phone scam.
If you have been scammed, report it to the Federal Trade Commission by going online to ftc.gov. Click on the link to the right. It is helpful if you have the name or phone number and the date you received the call. For additional information, visit ftc.gov/phonefraud.
Trust your instincts and take a deep breath, count to 10 and don’t make any decisions based on emotions. The Lanesboro grandparents knew what to do and what not to do and did not get scammed.