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Protect Yourself from Grandparent/Family Emergency Scams

Photo of an elderly person on the telephone looking concerned.

The Scam

You answer the phone and hear the following: “Grammy? Is that you? I’m in the hospital. I’m so sick and I can’t afford to pay my bill. Please send money!” The next week, you get a similar call, but this time your grandchild is overseas and can’t find the money to fly home. 

These phone scams, sometimes referred to as Grandparent or Family Emergency Scams, have been around for a while. However, there has been an increase in these types of scams as of late and we want to make sure  you have all of the facts so that you can protect yourself and your loved ones.  

How it works

Like in the scenarios above, a scammer calls and poses as a family member in trouble. They pressure the individual on the phone to send money quickly, without getting into a lot of detail.  Scammers tend to prey on the vulnerable, with a strong focus on the elderly. They tap into everyone’s biggest fear: that a family member is in trouble, and then they get the person on the phone to react emotionally and quickly. The scammer may also ask the individual not to tell anyone about “helping” them. This request is used to ensure that the individual doesn’t find out about the scam until after the scammer has received the money.

What Should You Do?

If you or someone you know receives this type of phone call, resist the urge to act immediately. Hang up the phone and call your family member, a friend or your police department to help you verify the story.  If you can’t get hold of the family member who is supposedly calling, call another family member to see if they can verify the story. The police department can also help you to check the story against recent scams in the area.  Make sure that you follow this step even if you are told to keep the call a secret. 

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