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Seniors are among the most common victims targeted by scammers and fraudsters. Criminals rely on these people’s vulnerabilities, and often, on the presumption that they are less able to spot a scam. In recent years, many online scams have also centered on seniors. In this case, the presumption is that the elderly are easier to trick because they’re less tech-savvy. So many cases of scams targeting the elderly have been reported in recent years that the FBI even has a dedicated page in which it warns seniors on the risk of scams and provides some recommendations on how to avoid them.
The Grandparent Scam
FBI’s senior scam page focuses on what they call ‘the grandparent scam’. The FBI presents a quick example of this scam, one that was replicated thousands of times. This is a telephone scam in which a senior gets a call from someone who claims to be their grandson or granddaughter. The purpose of the call is to inform them that the so-called grandson was arrested in a foreign country. To be able to get out of jail, the scammer asks for money to pay their bills.
A sense of urgency is always what these scams focus on. The caller says he or she needs the wire transfer as soon as possible and they also insist that their parents shouldn’t know about their situation because they would only get upset. A loving elderly person who’s completely shocked by the news could easily fail to realize the caller is impersonating their relative and proceed with the transfer.
According to the FBI, this scam has been around since 2008, at least. However, in time, it grew more and more sophisticated, and scammers began leveraging different other communication channels such as social platforms and apps to pull out successful tricks like this. Social networks have facilitated scammers’ job because they provide lots of personal details on individuals. For example, their hobbies and locations. Once a scammer knows a senior has a grandson who’s passionate about traveling and is currently in Europe, they can easily create a more plausible story.
There are different other variations of this scam. For example, to avoid the risky in-person phone call that might or might not work, scammers sometimes claim they are police officers who have arrested the person’s grandchild or their lawyer. In another scenario, scammers pretend they are doctors calling from a foreign hospital. They claim they need money for an urgent intervention the person required after being involved in a car accident.
In conclusion, sometimes, scammers work in pairs. The first person calls and talks for a few seconds pretending to be the grandchild, and then passes the phone to the alleged lawyer, doctor, or police officer.
What to do if you were scammed?
Victims of these financial scams usually incur significant losses of thousands of dollars. However, the involved amounts are below the necessary threshold that would prompt the FBI to start an investigation. For this reason, seniors who fall for these scams are advised to report them to the local authorities. The consumer protection agency in their state should also be alerted in this case.
What to do to avoid these scams?
There are different recommendations the FBI issued after seeing the surging number of grandparent scams. Since these frauds leverage people’s emotions, sensibility, and empathy, the first piece of advice is to resist the pressure of acting quickly. Scammers who claim they’re a loved one who is in trouble and needs urgent money count on the sense of emergency they create.
The first impulse when you hear that your grandchild is in a critical situation is to step in and help. However, only a few minutes of patience can prove extremely useful in critical circumstances. Instead of rushing to send the required money, people are advised to try to contact their relative directly. They will probably discover that the grandchild is safely at home or at work. If the person is not available, trying to contact their parents to tell them what happened and check their whereabouts is the second best course of action.
Finally, consumers are advised to never wire money to anyone following a phone or an email request that comes from a foreign country.
Courtesy of Clearwater Management