Criminals Mine Data from Social Media Sites to Prey on Grandparents
Meanwhile, the victims' grandchildren are actually safe at home or school.
To pull off these scams, criminals go through social media accounts, searching for information. On many accounts, scammers easily gather names, locations, schools attended, photos and other details that allow them to overcome skepticism when they call the grandparents.
According to the FBI, criminals often call "late at night or early in the morning when most people aren't thinking that clearly."
There are variations on the scam, the FBI reports, including:
1. Instead of the "grandchild" making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. Sometimes, the phony grandchild talks first and then hands the phone over to an accomplice...to further spin the fake tale.
2. After perusing a soldier's social networking page, a con artist will contact the individual's grandparents, claiming that a problem came up during military leave that requires money to address.
If you receive such a call, here are some steps to take:
- Don't be pressured to act quickly.
- Ask questions that would be difficult to answer unless you were actually in the family.
- Ask to contact the individual directly. Call the parents or friends to see if the grandchild is really traveling.
- Don't send money unless you're certain it is your family member.
- If you've been scammed, contact law enforcement immediately.