Protecting Yourself from Grandparent and Emergency Scams

by Safety Connection

West side Madison neighbors have been reporting a rash of grandparent scam attempts via phone recently. In 2019, a 93-year-old west side man was scammed out of $8500 after being convinced his grandson was in jail and in need of bail money. The scammer pretended to be a Madison Police officer and convinced the victim to withdraw money from his bank account and send it via Federal Express to an address in Miami, Florida.

As the Better Business Bureau explains, these emergency scams “prey on the willingness of an unsuspecting, worried individual to help friends and family in need. Often, they will impersonate their targets’ loved ones, make up an urgent situation, and plead for help… and money.

“Scammers can be very convincing and want you to act before thinking. A classic scam red flag is a caller who asks you to wire them money or purchase gift cards for them and read the numbers over the phone. Don’t take any action until you’ve done some of your own investigating. Ask the scammer questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer correctly. If you’re still unsure, talk to other family members or the police first.

To help prevent these scams, be careful what personal information you share on social media. Even sharing family information in obituaries can put you at a greater risk of scams.

Identity theft experts recommend that you don’t include a middle name, birthdate, birthplace, home address or mother’s maiden name in an obituary. And if you have older family members whom you think could fall prey to an emergency phone scam, decide on a secret phrase all family members can use if an actual emergency arises.

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