Mary is a recently widowed grandmother living at home alone but receives love and support from her close family. One day, Mary receives a phone call from an unknown number. The voice on the other line sounded a bit strange, but they say they are her grandson Bobby who got in trouble at their college and needed money or else they would be expelled. He pleaded with her to not tell his parents until he was able to get back and explain it to them himself. Mary loved Bobby and wanted to ensure he got a good education, so she agreed to help. Bobby told Mary she needed to go to her nearest convenience store and purchase gift cards then provide him with the numbers on the card. Mary completed this and called Bobby back on the new number he provided and transcribed the card numbers to him. Turns out the caller was not Mary's grandson Bobby, but a scammer
Did you spot the red flags?
- The caller asked for Mary to purchase gift cards and send them the card information.
- The caller mentioned he did not want Mary to tell his parents.
- The caller gave Mary a new phone number to call when she got the gift cards, rather than calling Bobby directly.
What you should know about this scam
Watch out for Grandparent Scams, which is what this event was. Scammers pose as a younger relative to prey on seniors with fake stories that need immediate attention. Talk to your older relatives about the real possibilities of these types of scams and a plan they should follow if they do occur. Consider setting up and using a family codeword.
Tell the entire family to avoid oversharing on social media sites. Many of these details are used by scammers in their attacks to trick our older relatives. With valid information such as where the grandchild goes to school, a trip they may be taking, or other details, the scam can be much more believable. All family members should accept friend requests wisely and keep accounts private.
Never purchase gift cards and provide the card information for an unsolicited call. It will ALWAYS be a scam. Other obscure payment methods to avoid include wire transfers or social payment platforms. For in-person variations of these scams, which do occur, avoid providing cash or checks to the individual requesting the payment.