Don’t be the victim of an imposter scam

Created date

January 22nd, 2019
Senior Scams Prevention Act has been introduced in the Senate. If passed, the bill would create a federal advisory council to develop educational materials for retailers, financial institutions, and wire transfer companies.

Out of the blue, you receive a phone call. The line may be full of static, making it difficult to hear, but it soon becomes clear that the caller is in trouble. He is sobbing so hard, it’s difficult to understand who it is or why he is calling until you hear, “Grandpa…”

Any grandparent who receives this call would undoubtedly be terrified. Without thinking, you may try to clarify the situation by saying your grandchild’s name.

This is the beginning of a popular scam called the imposter scam and once you identify your grandchild’s name, you’ve given the scammer enough information to proceed with this despicable scam.

Appealing to your emotions

The caller, who is most often pretending to be a grandson, says he’s in jail or in some sort of legal trouble. Sometimes he says he’s been in an accident and it was his fault because he was texting.

He will go on to tell you that he called you because you are the only person he can trust with this matter.

What happens next is the fake grandson will tell you that the only way he can get out of the mess he’s in is if you send him a large amount of cash through the mail or some other delivery service like UPS or Federal Express.

Sometimes the scammer even scans social media posts before calling so he can drop relevant names or information to convince you that he is who he claims to be.

It may be easy to brush off this type of scam believing that you would never fall for it, but think twice. When emotions are involved and you believe someone you love is in danger, reason often flies out the window.

A new report from the Consumer Sentinel Network, a part of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), indicates that 2018 saw a disturbing increase in this type of scam, and it was particularly hard on people over the age of 70.

The report says that the median amount of money people over the age of 70 reported losing to these scammers was $9,000. Added up, consumers lost a grand total of $41 million—a dramatic increase from last year when the total came to $26 million.

If you get a call like this, stop before it’s too late. Try and call the person or someone close to that person to see if he is indeed in trouble.

And be careful about what you post on social media or that Instagram image with the caption “My grandson Steve” may come back to haunt you.

If you have mailed cash, report it right away to the postal service or whichever shipping company you used. Some people have been able to stop delivery by acting quickly and giving a tracking number. Also report the incident to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

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