The other day one of my relatives shared with me a strange phone call they received.
As they picked up the phone they coughed and sneezed. From the other end of the line came, “how are you feeling?”
“Fine,” they sniffled and grabbed a tissue to wipe their nose. “Who is this?”
“Your eldest grandson.”
They didn’t recognize the voice and caller ID said, unavailable; “Who?”
After a pause came; “Michael, your eldest grandson.”
“You don’t sound like my grandson, and I don’t have a grandson named Michael.” With that they hung up.
This is actually the first time that they had gotten the Friend/Family scam. This is one of the top 10 financial scams targeting seniors according to the National Council on Aging.
The scammers typically try to impersonate actual relatives/friends of people. They then pull at the heart strings of the people they are scamming to give them money. Some of the scammers get detailed information ahead of time; while others don’t. Ways they get their information include:
- online search
- people-search websites
- buy the information
- public sources
- Social media accounts
- During the phone call they get us to provide it to them.
- For example when he said he was the “eldest grandson” if they would have replied with, “Oh John* why aren’t you in school?” he would have had the name and a clue that he should be in school.
When the scammers are questioned about why they don’t sound like the relative/friend they will come up with an excuse; not feeling well, got into a fight and nose is broken, the connection isn’t great, etc. Anything to get the person being scammed to dismiss the question that they aren’t actually the person they are claiming to be.
They will ask the person to keep the call and need for money a secret from other family members, like their mom or dad. Another part of the scam they use is to have someone there to act as an authority figure, like a lawyer or the police. They either come on the line right away or they call the person back. They will tell you how much money they need and how they want you to pay to get the friend/family member help.
According to the FTC the top three methods are:
- Wiring money through Western Union or Money Gram
- Gift Cards
- Cash Reload Cards
Some strategies to deal with these calls:
- Hang up.
- The scammers want you to keep the call secret; so do the opposite. Investigate by calling the relative and other relatives and talk to them to find out if it really was your friend/family member in trouble.
- Ask for verifying information something only the person they claim to be would know.
- Don’t give your private information out over the phone; this includes: credit card, bank card, address, names of relatives, social security number, medicare information.
- Limit who can see your Facebook and Social Media accounts friends/family lists.
- Report the scam to the FTC, and The Senate Special Committee on Aging has a phone number (1-855-303-9470) or online form for assistance: https://www.aging.senate.gov/fraud-hotline
Some days I wonder why I even have a landline when the majority of calls are telemarketers (even though the number is on the do not call list), political related, and scams.
*Disclaimer: All names have been made up.
1/28/2018 Changed the phrase: “Ways to fight back:” to “some strategies to deal with these calls”