The Better Business Bureau in Fresno, CA, warns about a new twist on the grandparent scam that involves the caller already knowing detailed information regarding family members. In addition, the calls are not targeted strictly at seniors and the money requested is to be wired to Mexico.
At least six complaints from victims in the Central Valley area of California have been received in the last two weeks.
The original scam generally worked like this -- the grandparent receives a distressed phone call from someone who claims to be their grandchild. The supposed grandchild typically explains that they are travelling in Canada and have been arrested or involved in an auto accident and need the grandparent to wire money to post bail or pay for damages — usually amounting to a few thousand dollars.
The scammers’ basic tactic is to pose as a grandchild and let the unsuspecting grandparent fill in the blanks. For example, the scam caller might say, “It’s me, your favorite grandchild,” to which the grandparent will guess the name of the grandchild it sounds the most like, and then the call proceeds from there.
Now callers area identifying themselves by the specific name of a particular family member. Callers claim they are being held in jail in Mexico and they need bail money to be wired immediately.
The scammers lace the conversation with correct references by name to other family members, strengthening their credibility. One caller even knew that the real person being impersonated had a twin who was born 2 minutes earlier.
The victims are not related and reside in different communities throughout the Central Valley area in California. Law enforcement officials contacted by the BBB are not certain how perpetrators are obtaining the inside knowledge or phone numbers for victims.
To protect against this scam, and other scams that may use a distressed loved-one tactic, BBB is advising people to remain calm and confirm the status of the individual by calling them back directly or verifying the story with other family members before taking any further action. Developing a secret code that is known only within the family is also recommended.
The BBB also encourages people to limit the amount of personal information shared on social media sites and to only “friend” people they personally know themselves.
Anyone who has lost money to this scam is encouraged to report it to their local BBB and to their local police department.
In Texas, anyone who believes they have been the target of a scam should contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.