March is typically the month of Spring Break for college and high school students. Your BBB® typically experiences a spike in Emergency Scam calls during this month. The emergency scam is also known as the grandparent scam because the scam often preys on elderly people.
Here is how the scam typically works. Someone calls you and says something like “Grandma, it’s me.” You might answer, “Bobby, is that you?” This gives the scammers a name to work with. They continue with a made up story that “Bobby” was on Spring Break in another country and got into trouble or was in a serious accident. Then comes a plea to send money via wire transfer, MoneyGram or GreenDot card sometimes in amounts of a couple thousand dollars. The scammers emphasize a sense of urgency, and you are urged not to tell your grandchild’s parents. This is not your grandchild (or relative or friend); it is just someone preying on your emotions.
Here are some tips for handling this type of call:
- Remain as calm as you can.
- Don’t volunteer information.
- Ask to speak to the loved one directly or call them yourself.
- If someone does get on the phone with you claiming to be your loved one, ask simple questions that only they would know the answer to.
- Be careful what you put on social media as scammers will use this information to their advantage.
Should you have any questions about the legitimacy of an overseas call that you’ve received, contact the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) at 1-888-407-4747. If you are a victim of a “grandparent scam,” you may report it to bbb.org/scamtracker and register a complaint online with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).