The BBB is advising caution if you receive a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild. You may think you’re helping your grandchild but if you send money you may be lining the pockets of scammers.
“The scam artists are clever and trick you into giving them the name of your grandchild,” said Janna Kiehl, BBB CEO. “Once you confirm a name, they latch onto it and ask for money to help get them out of trouble.”
Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a caller asking “grandma” or “grandpa” for help. Grandma or grandpa respond immediately, “Billy is that you”. The scammer then has the name of the grandchild and replies, “yes, it’s me, Billy.” They might then immediately say they are in trouble and need help; are in a foreign country, in jail, have had an accident, need money for hospital bills, etc. In the emotional moment, the scammer hopes the victim will agree to send money.
In earlier versions of the scam victims have also been contacted by someone claiming to be a police officer or lawyer representing the grandchild in court. In more recent versions the caller asks you to guess who it is that’s calling. Once you confirm a name, they ask for one or two thousand dollars for a trial. “Wise consumers will call their children to verify their grandchildren are safe in the US,” said Kiehl. “Even when the caller pleads not to divulge information to anyone and certainly not to his/her parents, it’s important to check.”
If you receive a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild in distress, BBB advises you don’t disclose any information before you have confirmed it really is your grandchild.
Be leery of requests to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram which should be seen as a “red flag”. Funds sent via wire transfer are hard to track once received by scammers.
If you have fallen victim to the scam, report the incident immediately to local police and the state Attorney General’s office. If there is a request to wire money to Canada, the Canadian call the PhoneBusters hotline 888-495-8501.