Family Member in Distress Scam
Scammers may pose as relatives or friends. They will call or send a text message urging the victim to wire money immediately. They will say they need the money for an emergency; such as getting out of jail, or that they were involved in an accident or even that they are being held for ransom in a foreign country.
The caller will then request that the victim wire money via "Western Union" or purchase gift cards and provide the caller with numbers on the back of the cards over the phone. Their goal is to trick you into thinking that a family member is in danger or in a financial predicament, causing you to fear for their safety. They prey on your concern and hope you will send the information or money to avoid any further conflict.
These scammers will often use a ploy to make you believe that their scam is legitimate. They will have another person, youthful sounding in the background scream as if they are in distress, making the situation more realistic. The caller will often tell the victim to not hang up or there will be consequences. Most of the information the caller uses in this ruse is usually obtained through Social Media accounts the victim or family members have. They gather information to show their credibility.
Avoid Being a Victim
If someone calls or sends you text messages claiming to be a family member in need of money:
- Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic their story
- Try and verify the callers identify by asking personal questions that a stranger couldn't possibly know.
- Call your family member and check on their well being.
- Even if you're told to keep it a secret, call another family member to verify the story.
- Don't wire money; don't send a check and don't send a money order.
- Report possible fraud at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
- Call your local police department.
Scammers use tricks; they easily impersonate your loved ones. It's very easy for scammers to impersonate someone. Social networking sites make it easy for scammers to find out personal information about you and your family. Scammers will often hack into e-mail accounts of someone you know to gather information, they may also use someone else to act as an authority figure, such as an attorney or a police officer.
Scammers play on your emotions. They are counting on your love for your family members and your willingness to help them. Con artists may impersonate grandchildren in distress to scare grandparents into sending money. This is often referred to as the "Grandparent Scam."
Scammers will often swear you to secrecy to keep you from checking out their story. Often times, victims don't realize they have been duped for a day or two. Usually not until they talk to their actual family member or friend.Scammers insist and pressure you to send money through a money transfer because as soon as it's sent, it's like sending cash. Once you send the money, it can't be traced and you won't get it back.
Don't be a victim! Follow the above tips to help protect you and your family. Share this article with those you care about.