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Opinion

Guard against grandparent scams
 
Published Monday, October 1, 2018
by Attorney General Josh Stein, Special to the Tribune

Grandparents and grandchildren often have a special relationship. Kids are used to getting away with a little more with their grandparents, and grandparents are happy to spoil their grandkids a little.

Some con artists know this and are only too willing to take advantage of a grandparent’s love. This year alone, our office has received 124 complaints involving grandparent scams that have cost consumers a total of $147,100.

Here’s how these scams work: In some cases, con artists use social media or other online information to learn more about the grandchild, including personal details that will help make the scam more realistic. Then they’ll contact the grandparent and claim to be the grandchild. The con artists say

they’re in trouble or facing imminent danger and need money immediately to ensure their safety. They’ll share the personal details they’ve learned to help convince the grandparent – and sometimes even use voice recordings to make the scam feel all too real.

They beg the grandparent not to tell their parents or anyone else. Often, they’ll ask the grandparent to send money via prepared gift cards or by wiring money. Grandparents will panic and complete the scammer’s demands to ensure their grandchild’s safety. Before they realize they’ve been scammed, they’ve already lost their money.

Once the scammer receives the money, it’s almost impossible to get it back. So here are some tips to share with your parents and older family members so they’re aware of these scams and can avoid getting tricked by them.

• Don’t answer calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize or emails from addresses that aren’t familiar to you. If you do answer a phone call or respond to a message from an unknown sender, do not provide any information about yourself or your family.

• Be skeptical of anyone who asks for money, no matter the reason. Beware of emotional pleas and appeals to the heart. And if they’re asking for money through prepaid gift cards, it’s a scam. Hang up immediately and file a complaint with my office. Never, under any circumstances, wire or send money in response to a phone call, email or online message.

• Don’t act right away when you are panicked. If someone claims to be a loved one in trouble, hang up and contact a family member directly to help you determine what’s going on.

• Be cautious when posting or interacting with others on social media. Make sure your  privacy settings prevent strangers from accessing information about you or your family.

Grandparent scams happen because our grandparents think they’re keeping us safe. But we can keep them and their money safe by having conversations about common scams. If you believe you or a loved one has encountered elder fraud or been the victim of a grandparent scam, my office is here to help. File a complaint or report a grandparent scam to our Consumer Protection Division at http://ncdoj.gov/complaint or by phone at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

 

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