The scammers’ basic tactic has been to pose as a grandchild and let an unsuspecting grandparent fill in the blanks. For example, the scam caller might say, “It’s me, your favorite grandchild,”
The supposed grandchild typically explains that they are travelling in Canada and have been arrested or involved in an auto accident and need the grandparent to wire money to post bail, pay for damages or medical bills—usually amounting to a few thousand dollars.
In the updated scam, callers identify themselves by specific name as a particular family member. They say they are being held in jail in Mexico and need bail money wired immediately to a location in that country.
The scammers lace the conversation with correct references by name to other family members as well as specific information about individuals, increasing their credibility.
Law enforcement officials contacted by BBB are not certain how perpetrators are obtaining the inside knowledge or phone numbers for victims. However, according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau Communications Director, Howard Schwartz, victim family members themselves often make that information readily available for the taking.
“This is a sophisticated new scam which highlights the importance of ensuring family members – particularly children and college students – are extremely careful about the kind of information they post on social networking sites and job boards. This is no longer just a ‘Grandparent Scam,’ but rather a ‘Family Member in Distress’ scam.”
Victims are encouraged to contact their local police department and file a complaint with the FBI.
To protect themselves from this and other scams that may use a distressed loved-one tactic, BBB is advising people to confirm the status of the individual by calling them back directly or verifying the story with other family members or friends before taking any further action.
Developing a secret code that is known only within the family is also recommended.
Better Business Bureau encourages people to limit the amount of personal information shared on social media sites and to only “friend” people they personally know themselves.
More information on scams and how families can protect themselves is available at http://ct.bbb.org/
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