10 Tips to Avoid Family Emergency Scams

A number of different scams are happening more frequently, especially during these uncertain times. There are steps that you can take to avoid most scams and to protect yourself and your family, here are a few tips:

  • Resist the urge to act immediately, even when the message from the scammer is pressuring you with scare tactics or makes you think something is a limited time offer.

Watch out for the Grandparents Scam! This scam has been on the rise and includes exploiting grandparents’ love and concern for their grandchildren.

How this scam works: The victim gets a call from someone posing as his or her grandchild. The caller explains in a frantic-sounding voice, that he or she is in trouble, for example there has been an accident, an arrest, or robbery and he/she is hospitalized or stuck in a foreign country. The scammer might use details about the family that they learned from the grandchild’s social media account to make it more believable and then asks the grandparent to wire money immediately.

To avoid giving in to the scammer’s demands or how to avoid being scammed, remember:

  • Verify the caller’s identity by asking questions that someone else is unlikely to be able to answer, for example the name of the family’s first pet.
  • Tell the caller you will call them right back, then call your grandchild’s usual phone number to verify the story.
  • If your grandchild can’t be reached, contact a family member or friend to check out the story. Remember, scammers will plead with you to keep the emergency a secret so you won’t confirm the story.
  • If you speak to someone who claims to be a police officer, call the relevant law enforcement agency to verify the person’s identity and any information they’ve given you.
  • Don’t trust caller ID or answer calls from unknown numbers. If you recognize the caller ID but the call seems suspicious, hang up the phone.
  • Don’t give out your personal information unless you are certain the person and reason is legitimate. Remember your bank will never ask you to send your account number, Social Security number, or Tax ID over text, email or online.
  • Don’t send cash, wire money, or provide numbers from gift cards. Scammers might pressure you to use those methods since they are difficult to trace.
  • Be cautious about what you are sharing on social media. Consider only connecting with people you know and check your privacy settings for all your social media and online accounts.
  • Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails. Be cautious even with an email that looks familiar; it could be fake. Instead, delete the email if it looks unfamiliar and block the sender.

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