Posted: 6/14/2017

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Imagine getting a call from a loved one saying they have been in an accident or detained by the police and need your help. They tell you they need you to wire money right away to get out of a bind. Feelings of panic, despair, and the need to do whatever it takes to help that person takes over. But better beware—you may be dealing with a scammer.

This happened to a consumer who contacted Business Consumer Alliance. She says she received a call from someone that claimed to be her grandson, telling her had gotten into a car accident in another state and needed money immediately. The caller said he couldn’t talk very well because he had sustained a busted lip when the airbag deployed. Almost immediately, the phone was taken by someone that identified themselves as a legal aid who said her grandson was at fault for the accident and would need to pay fines before he would be allowed to return home. He then instructed her to wire money to an alleged bail bondsman. Being traumatized, thinking only of helping her grandson, she wired $1,000 to the crooks. When she later realized she had been scammed, she notified BCA to warn others and to get advice on how to proceed.

Scammers use such tactics, often referred to as “grandparent” or ”emergency” scams,  to trick others into sending money before they have a chance to realize it’s a scam. They pose as relatives and friends and say they need cash wired for bail, to pay hospital bills, in order to leave a foreign country, or any number of reasons. They prey on peoples’ emotions, callously counting on the person being so worried about their family or friend that they don’t take a moment to think things through and consider that it may be a scam.

Unfortunately for this consumer, like many others, she will probably never see that money again. But on the bright side, there are ways to protect yourself from falling victim to these types of schemes. If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for money, try to stay calm and avoid the urge to act instantly. No matter how desperate and convincing the story may sound, verify that the person you are speaking to is who they claim to be. Ask questions that a stranger couldn't possibly answer. Verify where they are calling from. Contact the family member directly by calling them or someone they are close to. Check with other family members or friends to see if the story checks out, even if the caller tells you to keep the matter a secret. Know that requests asking you to wire money are often a tell-tale sign of a scam. Never wire money or send checks or money orders overnight unless you have verified that the person is actually in trouble. You should also never provide your personal or financial information to anyone that calls you out of the blue on the phone or who you have not thoroughly checked out.

Report the scam to Business Consumer Alliance. If you have wired money, contact the money transfer company right away to report the fraud. Ask if the transaction can be reversed and how to file a complaint. And most importantly, share this information with people you know so they aren’t caught off guard.

About Business Consumer Alliance

Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.

Tags: scam, Grandparent Scam

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The Consumer Ally program is free for consumers to join. At BCA, we feel it's very important to educate the public on trends like scams, new laws and providing helpful tips to empower the public in making wise purchasing decisions. This program is an elite community of consumers who share our vision for a safe marketplace. We can't be everywhere at once so we depend on feedback from the public to help our efforts.

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