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BBB warns impostor scams could hit seniors hard this weekend

By Victoria Advocate
Sept. 6, 2013 at 4:06 a.m.


As we celebrate Grandparents Day on Sunday, the Better Business Bureau is warning seniors to be on the lookout for a scheme commonly referred to as the "grandparent scam."

Here's how it works: The scammer preys on the grandparent's desire to aid their grandchildren. Typically, he or she receives a frantic phone call from someone posing as their grandchild, according to a news release from the Better Business Bureau.

A scammer who has done research on the family explains that he or she needs help, usually saying they're trapped in another country or involved in a serious accident or emergency. The "grandchild" pleads to the grandparents to not tell his or her parents and asks that they wire money to help immediately.

Unfortunately, senior citizens have always been frequent targets, as they are often trusting and willing to help a loved one. Thieves also know seniors can have Social Security income, pensions, investments and plenty in savings. That makes them attractive targets for con artists.

And when it comes to a grandchild in need of help, emotions can run high. Scammers find ways to take advantage of that.

Recent reports from the Consumer Sentinel Network show a steady increase in impostor scam reports over the last several years, from just above 60,000 in 2010 to almost 83,000 in 2012.

The grandparent scam is a common type of impostor scam targeted at senior citizens. If you are a senior or you know someone who is, it's important to learn how grandparent scammers operate.

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to avoid becoming victim to a grandparent scam:

Be skeptical. Ask questions only the grandchild could know the answer to without revealing too much personal information yourself. Ask the name of a pet, a favorite dish or what school they attend. Your loved one should not get angry about you being too cautious.

Verify information. Check with the parents to see if the child is really traveling as they say they are.

Don't wire money. Never use a transfer service to send money to someone you haven't met in person or for an emergency you haven't verified is real.

Know where to turn. If you fall victim to a scam, report the incident immediately to local police and your state attorney general's office.

The Better Business Bureau serves Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin.

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