I educate the community about various scams and how to avoid being a victim. Many of my presentations take place at senior centers where many share their stories and experiences with me. I am always relieved that most of them are able to spot the most popular scams and avoid being taken.
Last fall I was stunned by a story that one gentleman shared with the group. He was a recently retired and based on his healthy skin tone and Hawaiian shirt I assumed he was enjoying his new chapter in life.
The distinguished full bearded man began to speak with an authentic and commanding tone that instantly gained the attention of the room.
“We received a phone call at home this summer and the gentleman on the other end was informing us that our grandson was in jail in New York City and needed us to put up his bail,” he said.
As a retired prosecuting attorney he was skilled and trained to detect lies and deceit from criminals. The problem was the detail. They knew his grandson’s name, could describe his tattoos and name his best friends that he had met several times.
Just as he was considering getting out a credit card to cover the cost of his bail bond, his wife walked into the room and overheard his end of the conversation. She was concerned and wanted to call their daughter to see if she was aware of the situation. He took down a number to call back and called his daughter to confirm their grandson was in fact in New York City with friends. The answer was no.
The scammers had been able to access photos and information from their grandson’s social media accounts to provide intimate detail of his life.
As high school and college students are taking a break from the demands of academics and seeking fun in the sun, scammers are betting there are loved ones at home who would do anything to help their favorite young person get out of trouble. If you should receive a call like this, BBB wants you to remember these tips:
Stay calm. Scammers are counting on an emotional response that has a person react quickly and without question because they are scared or worried about their loved one.
Be skeptical. Ask them to answer very personal questions that very few people would know the answers to.
Verify. Take down contact information and offer to call them back giving you time to call someone who can confirm your loved one’s location and activities. Sometimes the attempt can be about a relative you have little contact with and it may be a bit more difficult to verify their whereabouts.
Never wire money. There is no way to recover funds that are sent through a wire service.
Technology and social media can be a powerful one-two punch for scammers. Be a hero and report your experience to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker, whether or not money is actually lost. Reporting a scam attempt or success helps others.