When your loved one calls in need of something, your first instinct is to help out. The problem is scammers are taking advantage of your big heart in a terrifying way.
We have warned you before about the grandparent scam, which is similar to the kidnapping scam. Scammers call claiming to be a family member in need of help and money. We’ve talked to several victims.
One Colorado Springs man lost thousands of dollars while trying to help his grandson.
“This guy sounded just like my grandson,” said the grandpa, who wanted to remain anonymous. “I took the phone and he said, ‘Grandpa I had an accident. I’m not hurt, everybody’s OK, but I damaged the car and I need to borrow $4,000.’”
The man bought gift cards and read them over the phone to the scammers. “My daughter came in afterwards and said ‘You just got burned, Dad. That was a scam.’”
After that ordeal, he and his family came up with a password to verify they’re really talking with each other on the phone. This is a great idea, and I would recommend your family come up with a secret code, too. All of the family members know the password and if the caller doesn’t know it, they hang up the phone.
That grandfather isn’t the only one to fall for this scam. We talked with another family that lost $6,000 to the kidnapping scam. The scammers originally asked for $1,000 but then they kept coming up with reasons why they needed more money.
A lot of times the scammers have done their research. With social media, it’s not hard for scammers to do a quick search to find out some of the names of your family members.
You would be surprised how much information scammers can find on Facebook, like a list of your closest friends and family. They can use that information to make their stories sound more believable. It’s another reason to check your privacy settings if you do have social media accounts.
Parents have also been known to get similar calls about their kids being in danger. I talked to a mom who was told her 7-year-old had been kidnapped. “I pick up the phone and I was like, ‘Hello?’ It was a kid crying, hysterical crying. He’s all, ‘Mommy?’ I was like, ‘Aiden is that you.’ He goes, ‘Mommy, help,’” said Lori.
Then a man got on the phone and demanded money from Lori.
“He goes, ‘I kidnapped your kid and if you don’t send me money, I’m going to kill him.’ So instantly, I’m panicking.” Lori motioned to her other son to call her 7-year-old’s school to check on him. They found out her son was safe at school, and the scammer hung up.
Scammers will have other con artists yelling in the background pretending to be a kidnapped victim.
Call your loved one directly using a trusted number to check on them before giving out money.
If you get a call like this, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov.