Today is the second time in about a month that I have read about a grandmother being scammed on the phone. The scammers follow the same formula each time. They called “grandma” on the phone posing as an older grandchild in trouble. The “grandchild” doesn’t want to upset Mom and Dad and asks “grandma” to wire money.
It is the most natural thing in the world for a loving grandparent to want to help a young adult grandchild in distress. The con artists take advantage of that.
They also take advantage of the fact that families often live farther apart and communicate less often with each other. So, the best deterrent is better communication.
My Dad was suspicious by nature. He managed to fend off any number of strange phone callers. He would proudly tell me how he rebuffed them after the fact. But, I’m convinced that our regular phone chats, during which I would casually mention scams I had heard about, helped him keep his guard up.
So, even if your elderly parents are still self-sufficient, make time at least weekly to chat. Help them know about possible scams before they happen.
Help your parent feel comfortable telling you anything.
You could say, “I think it is always better to know. Please call me if you believe that anyone in our family is in trouble. Together we can help them.”
Lottery scam: Victims receive an email or letter saying they have won an inheritance and are asked to cash a check and wire money back to pay tax, import and customs fees, etc. Wired money can be picked up anywhere in the world.
Reshipping scam: Victim is looking for a job online. Suspect replies with offer: Reship items, usually overseas, and the victim can keep small percentage of cash or goods, which are usually stolen or purchased with stolen credit cards. (I have mentioned this one before. You can be arrested for this.)
Pigeon-drop scam: Usually targets elderly or non-English speakers. Scam artist claims to have something valuable (cash to donate to charity, a lotto ticket or jewelry) and needs someone trustworthy with a bank account. Scam artist asks victim to provide collateral, or cash, to prove he is trustworthy of receiving the valuable item. Scammers flee with money when victims comply.
Craigslist, eBay, Auto Trader scam: Victim selling car or other item online. Suspect purchases item with a fraudulent check that is more than asking price and asks seller to wire back the difference. Check will be returned in two to three weeks. (Use PayPal on eBay, get cash for small items. If you get a request like this, don’t cash the check. Send it back to the buyer.)
Parking lot scam: Scammers approach potential victims in store parking lots and offer to sell high-end electronic components, usually a laptop computer or plasma TV, at a discount rate. Scammers use legitimate boxes. Inside is usually a piece of wood or bricks that weigh about the same as the TV or computer.
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