Every spring, students anticipate the arrival of spring break – a chance to trade their studies for some fun in the sun. Unfortunately, it’s also the time when unscrupulous individuals see this as a chance to purport what is known as the Grandparent Scam.
Here's how it works. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call, which they are led to believe is their grandchild away for spring break. A scammer, posing as their grandchild, explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs their help. The "grandchild" might claim he or she caused a car accident or is in trouble with the law and requires money to be wired immediately. Victims may also be contacted by someone claiming to be a police officer or lawyer representing the grandchild in court. In either case, the "grandchild" pleads with the grandparents to not tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons including posting bail, repairing the grandchild's car, covering lawyer's fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.
“These ‘emergency’ scams are designed to fool seniors into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded and in need of money”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills “By playing on their victims’ emotions, scam artists are able to swindle thousands of dollars at a time from them.”
BBB provides the following tips to help keep consumers from falling prey to the Grandparent Scam.
- Communicate.Share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.
- Share information. Provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.
- 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 has gotten into trouble and needs help, perhaps caused a car accident or was arrested for drug possession. The "grandchild" pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons posting bail, repairing the car, covering lawyer's fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.
- Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their grandchild. If a caller says "It's me, Grandma!" don't respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or the name of the family pet.
If you do fall victim to the "Spring Break Scam" or "Grandparent Scam", report the incident immediately to BBB and local police.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to www.bbb.org. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline: (903) 581-8373.