Emergency Scam Targets Huntsville Grandparent

Female mature writing cell phone indoors closeup

Although many well-known outlets have been reporting on the “Emergency” or “Grandparents” scam for 5 years, word is not spreading as quickly as hoped. A North Alabama resident almost fell for one of these calls just this week. The resident received a call early Tuesday from someone claiming to be her grandson. He said that he was involved in an automobile accident with minor injuries including a broken nose and scratches. He was calling from the Jacksonville, FL jail after being arrested on a DUI charge. In an added twist to this scam, he stated that he could not talk to her anymore but that his attorney would call her back.

Sure enough, she received another phone call minutes later from a man claiming to be her grandson’s attorney by the name of Matthew Anderson. Anderson claimed that her grandson stopped him when he saw him speaking with another person in the jail and asked him to represent him and to call his grandmother. Anderson went on to say that her grandson’s bail was $940.00 and he was to be seen in court at 1:30 that afternoon. Fortunately, as soon as the “lawyer” hung up, the grandmother immediately called her grandson to confirm this story and found out he was actually at his job in Huntsville.

Unfortunately, unlike this grandmother, people across the nation are victimized by this scam every day. According to the AARP, “Grandparents of college-aged young people are the most frequent targets, reporting losses exceeding $110 million a year.” The details may be different, but the ploy is the same every time. Scammers expertly play on a victim’s emotions, to get them to act without thinking first. Once the mark wires the money, it’s gone and irretrievable.

How do you protect yourself? Here’s what to look out for if you receive a call like this?

  • “Don’t tell mom and dad….” Typically, when a grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild, the scammer explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs help, and then pleads to the grandparent not to tell his or her parents.
  • “My nose is broken, so I may sound strange.” This is a well-known ploy to reduce questioning from the grandparent. Having a bone broken in the face can contribute to the voice sounding different than normal. Don’t believe this excuse.
  • “I need money right away to…. pay the traffic ticket…post bail…pay the ambulance.” If your “grandchild” asks you to wire thousands of dollars for reasons like posting bail, repairing the car, covering lawyer’s fees, or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild has supposedly injured in a car accident, don’t believe it.
  • Don’t disclose too much information. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be your grandchild in distress, don’t disclose any information before confirming that it really is your grandchild. If a caller says, “It’s me, Grandma!” don’t respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. People should also be careful sharing too much travel information on social media.
  • Ask a question that only your grandchild will know. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know such as the name of a cousin or pet. Be careful not to ask something that can be easily identified via a social media profile (such as the name of the grandchild’s school).
  • Family communication is crucial. If a student really is traveling, he or she should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country. Let older loved ones know where you’ll be and when you plan to return. Make sure everyone in the family has contact information in case of emergency. This should include a cell phone number and email for the student and for anyone they are traveling with.

Source: BBB of North Alabama and AARP

To read the original article, visit Busted: Con Artists Exposed

If you would like to report a scam, call your BBB at 256-533-1640 or go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.