Frantic phone caller is likely an impostor
July 1, 2016
The “grandparent scam” occurs in Alaska on a regular basis. It’s an impostor scam that has been around for years and has claimed many victims nationwide. The amount requested by the scammers usually runs into several thousand dollars, but one couple here in Alaska lost more than $75,000 to this scam.
Here’s how it works
The frantic phone call often comes late at night or early in the morning when a person may not be as cognizant. The scammer poses as the victim’s grandchild (or other family relative such as a niece or nephew) and often they know the grandchild’s name although in some instances, the victim may inadvertently say the name: “Hi Grandma. It’s me.” Grandparent: “Timmy, is that you?”
The grandchild claims to be traveling, often in Mexico or Canada, and is in some sort of trouble – they’ve been in a car accident, they’re in a hospital or they’ve been arrested and in jail. They need money right away, but plead with the grandparent not to call their parents. An accomplice then comes on the phone, pretending to be from the jail, the hospital or even from the American Embassy and gives instructions on wiring the money.
Tips to avoid this scam
Of course, it’s best to just hang up the phone. These scammers are good and they will try to keep a person on the phone, often with enough real information that the senior may think the call is genuine. It’s best to just hang up and not even get into a conversation with anyone who calls unsolicited.
Never divulge any personal information during an unsolicited phone call, especially the family member’s name. Never give bank account or credit card numbers over the phone.
Never wire money or fill a pre-paid debit card, including iTunes or Amazon gift cards. These methods are the same as sending cash – the money is gone and nearly impossible to recover.
It’s important to stay calm and not act out of a sense of urgency – which is what the scammer wants. Family members should be called to verify locations of grandchildren.
Please share this information with your friends and relatives. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open and to help prevent these scammers from claiming more victims. AARP has a great video explaining this scam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8Ca0UCmnkY.
Michelle Tabler is the Better Business Bureau Alaska Regional Manager.