The holidays are a time for reconnecting with family members, near and far. Unfortunately, it can also be a time when scam artists prey on your family's emotions to make a quick buck.
As you begin reaching out to your family members to make travel arrangements and plans to gather, the Department of Banking and Securities and Department of Aging want you to be aware of this "Grandparent Scam" and ways you can protect yourself from being a victim.
The typical version of the scam involves a senior citizen receiving a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild who is in serious trouble and needs their grandparent to send money very quickly without conferring with any other family members or authorities. The success of the scam hinges on the recipient's sense of familial obligation and willingness to help, along with the pressure of the request requiring immediate action.
Here are steps you can take to protect yourself from being the victim of the "Grandparent Scam":
- Don't send money right away. A hallmark of financial scams is the pressure to act quickly, but the truth is there are few, if any, "emergencies" that require thousands of dollars and would require your immediate action.
- Contact your family member using a known phone number. End the call with the scammer and contact your family member with a known telephone number, not a number given to you by the person calling.
- Communicate with your family. Share your travel plans with your family members and ask that they share theirs with you. If you have a grandchild traveling abroad, be sure to have a legitimate phone number where they can be reached.
- Ask a question only your family member would know. Talk to the caller and ask them about details only your family member would know. A name of a childhood pet, a birthday present, or a detail about the last time you saw them in person can all be good ways to determine if this person is actually known to you. Be careful not to use something a scammer could find out about you or your family member online.
- Don't share too much information. Scam artists are notorious for researching their victims online. Be cautious when posting personal information on social media like Facebook and advise your family members to do the same.
The Department of Aging encourages any person who believes that an older adult is being financially exploited to file a confidential report with any Area Agency on Aging. You can also call the statewide abuse hotline at 800-490-8505.
Anyone can contact the Department of Banking and Securities at 1-800-PA-BANKS or 1-800-600-0007 to ask questions or file complaints about financial transactions, companies, or products.