Grandparent Scam: Is it really a relative calling?

WASHINGTON (WUSA9 Call for Action) --A lot of young people are traveling abroad these days. So the situation is ripe for scamsters to attack the relatives of these travelers. Using random computer dialing the crook tries the scam on many people, some fall for it. Or the approach may be through an email.

Sometimes called the Grandparent Scam, it works this way. You receive a phone call claiming to be from John (or another common name) who is traveling in Europe. John claims to be your nephew or your grandson and he states he has been robbed and his money and credit cards have been taken. He is in desperate need of enough money to get back home. After all he has to pay for his hotel room, transportation, etc. He wants you to wire him $2,000 so he can get home.

Or the scenario may involve John being in the hospital and unable to call so a friend is making the call for him. John's friend tries to convince the person that he needs money to pay his hospital bill and get special transport home. The recipient of the call is urged to wire the money so John can pay his bills and come home. Wiring money is like giving the person cash, once it is sent, it is gone and you will not be able to retrieve it.

These calls are designed to frighten the person receiving the call and convince the individual immediate action is necessary. Often the caller pleads with the person to keep the call secret because John doesn't want to alarm his parents.

This scam has been around a long time but according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center the reports of this fraud continue to pour in.

What should you do if you receive this type of call?

Don't panic. If it really is a relative of course you want to help, but chances are good it is a crook who has gotten your number through random dialing and hit the jackpot because you do have a young relative who is traveling abroad.

Contact the person's parents. If that isn't possible, take all the information from the caller and ask how you can get back in touch. Also ask personal questions, such as the name of an individual that would only be known to your relative. And other personal questions, such as the address of someone one close to both of you or a relative's nickname.

Keep in mind, the phone number you see on your caller ID may be a fake so proceed with caution.


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