3 ways to spot an emergency scam:
1. The caller insists upon secrecy
Once your “grandchild” has had his or her say, the scammer will then take the phone, impersonating an authority figure who is out to make the arrest and demanding that payment be made immediately. They’ll stress the importance of keeping it hush-hush so nobody gets hurt, but the real reason behind their gag order is to keep you from digging and identifying the scam.
2. The “authority figure” will only accept certain payment methods
If you receive a phone call insisting that you wire money, or send a prepaid debit card or certified check to save your grandchild from a distressing situation, you’re looking at a scam.
3. Your “grandchild” doesn’t know basic identifying information
It can be difficult to recognize your grandchild’s voice over a phone that has iffy reception. If you receive a call like the one described above, ask the caller about some information that a stranger would not be able to find on your grandchild’s social media accounts. This will let you know who you’re dealing with.
If you’ve been scammed
If you’ve gotten a frantic phone call like this from your grandchild and you believe it to be true, don’t react. First, call your grandchild on your own to verify his or her whereabouts. You may be surprised to learn your grandchild is safe at home!
If you’ve only recognized the ruse after you’ve sent your money, report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.
Your Turn: Have you been targeted by an emergency scam? Tell us all about it in the comments.
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