The grandparent scam is a form of telephone fraud. The scammer phones a grandparent and pretends to be a grandchild in distress and asks that funds be wired to a specified location.
How can one avoid being a victim?
- Never wire money to an unknown person. If you receive a call about a family member in distress in a foreign country, verify the information with family members. Another method is to have a family password, such as the name of a pet, which you can use for verification of the caller's identity.
- Build a wall around your computer. Use both antivirus and anti-spyware software to keep intruders from stealing personal information from your computer.
- Don't open file attachments in emails from strangers. These can contain programs that enable crooks to get into your computer remotely. Be cautious on social media. Anything you reveal about your family, travels or schedule can be easily picked up by bad guys.
- Ask lots of questions. If you get an impassioned call for money from a family member, take a deep breath and try not to get emotional. Instead, ask some questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer correctly. Examples are the name of the person's pet, his mother's birth date, or his boss's name.
- Slow the process down. Never say yes to a money transfer based on a single call. Always hang up and do some research, such as trying to contact the person directly on her cell or work phone, or talking with someone she is close with to corroborate the situation.
- Don't be embarrassed. If you fear that you have fallen prey to a scam, do not let pride get in the way of contacting authorities. And if you've wired money, immediately call the money transfer service to report the fraud. If the money hasn't been picked up yet, you can retrieve it.