7 Fraud Alerts: Grandparent scams keep tricking people

Unfortunately, as people get on they’re targeted for fraud more often as they’re seen as an easy mark. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Fraud alert: Grandparent scams keep tricking people out of money

Imagine being woken by a phone call in the middle of the night. It’s your crying grandchild, who is asking for money because of an accident. Of course you want to help your loved one, so you do whatever you can in this emergency situation. You open your wallet without hesitation.

Unfortunately you’ve just become a victim of a scam that is happening across the country. Known as the “grandparent scam,” this type of fraud involves bogus calls from people claiming to be relatives in trouble. The personal nature and urgency of these calls causes people to let their guard down, and act quickly without verifying the validity of the call.

“Criminals often target older people, but in reality anyone of any age can be a target of a scam,” says Phil Hopkins, vice president of global security with Western Union. “With more people sharing personal information online, such as through social media websites, it’s easier for criminals to learn details of personal relationships so they can imitate loved ones by name. Newspapers and obituaries are also good sources of personal information, providing detailed relationship information.”

Con artists may also impersonate attorneys, police officers or bail bondsmen to create a sense of urgency and legitimacy. Add in loud background noises, muffled voices or fuzzy phone lines, and it’s easy to believe someone is calling from jail or a remote location, where he or she may be in trouble.

“Known as the “grandparent scam,” this type of fraud involves bogus calls from people claiming to be relatives in trouble.”

In addition to calling victims, hackers use similar strategies to target victims through email. Tapping into a person’s address book, scammers send emails or instant messages directly from the person’s email account alerting friends and others of the “emergency” and requesting funds. Do not respond to the email and confirm the situation by contacting the person by phone or other means.

“Awareness is the best defense against emergency scams,” says Hopkins. “These scams can be convincing, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind before you rush to help.”

Hopkins recommends you follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim of the emergency scam or other types of fraud:

1 – If you receive a phone call or email claiming a friend or family member needs cash, take a moment to review the situation. Does it make sense? Can you verify the emergency?

2 – Call the person at a known telephone number, not a number given to you by the caller. Or, call a mutual friend or another relative and find out if he or she is aware of the situation.

3 – Let your friend or family member know that you have received a call or email from the person requesting help. If the request turns out to be fake, contact the police immediately.

4 – Regardless of whether you are contacted by phone, email or some other means, be suspicious of requests to send money to “help a friend or family member out” unless you can verify the information you’ve been given with 100 percent confidence.

5 – If you did send a money transfer through Western Union, and then realize that it was for a scam, contact the Western Union Fraud Hotline at 1-800-448-1492 . If the transaction has not been picked up, it will be refunded to you.

6 – Never send money to someone you have not met in person.

7 – For more information on scams or for more tips on how to help protect yourself from scams, visit www.WesternUnion.com/stopfraud


Without doubt the audacity, cheek, skill, cunning and deceit of fraudsters, scammers, thieves, dirty rotten … , call them what you will, confounds and even amazes. They will always find another way. They’ll always look like they’re one step of the law and that may often be the case. But they do get caught and prosecuted. The law does work, but it’s really up against it in cases of fraud. This is why all of us have to keep eyes and ears open, partly to be able to avoid being drawn in and partly so that we can tell the people who can do something about it – the Police – when we think there’s something going on.

It’s interesting that Western Union is identified specifically as there have been inferences about the company at times. Its business line is one which can be attacked and used in cases of fraud. For a long time, the internet has been the target of hundreds of different forms of fraud and it’s likely that will stay the case.

So keeping your wits about you when you’re online is simply the right thing to do. Also make sure you keep your virus protection software up to date. If you haven’t got virus protection software, you are definitely exposed and running a tangible risk. It costs money every year, yes. And it will save you from losing money every year too.

What fraud can leave behind goes well beyond the monetary value and can affect people deeply. If you’ve been the victim of fraud or know someone who has, the emotional / psychological impact is real and should not just be pushed away. The wounds will take time to heal and just as you’d live through the healing of a broken bone, you’re allowed to live through the healing of a fraud committed against you. Don’t suffer alone. Talk to your doctor, practice nurse or a specialist. They understand, are trained in healing and can either help you directly or put you with someone who can help you directly.

It’s your right. Your self-esteem is more important than them or the money. Your quality of life is precious. We’re still able to take care of ourselves and should be proud of it. An incident of fraud is an attack on our person. If you had a wounded knee you’d see someone about it and get on with healing it. It’s the same thing.-BPT

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1 Comment

  1. Sad that people take advantage of the vulnerable.

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