A prevalent scam that targets primarily seniors is commonly known as the “grandparents scam.”
In this scam, the con artist poses as the grandchild -- or a friend of a grandchild – and either calls or sends an email to the intended victim stating that the grandchild is in a foreign country and is in some sort of trouble (such as financial trouble, illness, or physical danger) and money must be sent to them right away to get them out of the trouble.
These criminals prey on the kindness of a concerned grandparent, who is naturally very concerned and wants to help his or her loved one. The con artist asks for money to be wired quickly and, pretending to be the loved one in trouble, tells the grandparent not to tell anyone.
This particular scam has been around for years and the FBI reports that the Internet Crime Complaint Center (known as IC3 and on the Internet here: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx) has been receiving reports about this scam since 2008. However, since that time, both the scam itself and the scam artists have become more and more sophisticated.
Through the Internet and various social networks, such as Facebook and others, a criminal can more easily uncover personal information about their targets. Having that sort of personal information makes the impersonations used in this scam more believable. For example, a victim’s actual grandson may mention on a social networking site that he is a photographer who often travels to Mexico. So, for example, when the scam artist calls the grandparent, he will represent that he is calling from Mexico where someone stole his camera equipment and passport.
Often, these scam phone calls may happen late at night or early in the morning when most people are not necessarily thinking clearly.
There are also scenarios in which the con artist may instead pretend to be a police officer, lawyer, or doctor at a hospital calling on behalf of the grandchild. They will represent that the grandchild is in some sort of trouble, such as being arrested or having been in a bad accident.
There have been times that two people are involved in the scam in an attempt to make it seem more realistic, with one person pretending to be the grandchild and then handing the phone to someone else to describe what is supposedly wrong.
Here are some tips from the FBI about what to do if you have been targeted in this scam and how to avoid becoming a victim of this scam: