Alert: Grandparents Scam Being Aided By Social Media Sharing

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Scott Starr, of the Indiana law firm of Starr, Austen & Miller, LLP, announced an alert to the public today regarding the so called “Grandparents Scam” which was recently highlighted by the FBI. This scam can prey not only on the elderly, but on anyone who has a loved one who could plausibly be outside the country on any given day, and that is virtually everyone.

Scott Starr, of the Indiana law firm of Starr, Austen & Miller, LLP, announced an alert to the public today regarding the so called “Grandparents Scam” which was recently highlighted by the FBI. This scam can prey not only on the elderly, but on anyone who has a loved one who could plausibly be outside the country on any given day, and that is virtually everyone.

There are a lot of variations of the scam, but basically the idea is that a scammer either emails or calls a person either posing as a grandchild, niece, nephew, close family friend, etc., or saying they are calling on their behalf, as a police officer, doctor, lawyer, etc. Then, the scammer states that the loved one in question is in trouble in another country and needs money wired right away to help them, and not to tell anyone else or it could cause embarrassment or other consequences. The trouble the loved on is in ranges from being arrested, mugged, kidnapped, held for ransom, or whatever else creative the scammer can think of.

Starr states, “The keys to the scam are urgency and secrecy. To make sure you don’t catch on to the scam, or have time to really confirm where your loved one really is and if they’re really in trouble, the scammers make it important to act quickly and not confirm the report with others first.” Typically, the scammer requests a couple of thousand dollars be wired to the foreign county. Once they receive the cash you can’t get it back, and the scam is completed.

This scam is actually relatively old, being first reported back in 2008. However, it is currently making a comeback because of the prevalence of personal information about people available through social media and the Internet. Instead of randomly calling or emailing someone, industrious scammers will carefully choose a target that they can glean information about from these sources to make the scam seem more believable and genuine. Starr says, “They may craft the story to seem quite plausible, or provide details you don’t think anyone else would know.”

Starr further states, “This scam is especially prevalent when a person’s Facebook account is compromised. Then, the scammer can easily learn a great deal of information about the person they will pretend to be, and then privately message lots of friends and other contacts through the Facebook account email messaging system trying to defraud people out of money.”

Mr. Starr has this advice for not falling for the scam. He states, “The scammers are relying on urgency and secrecy to try to take your money. Therefore, before wiring money to any foreign country slow down, and make sure you do confirm the basic facts from independent sources you know personally. The reason is that once the money is wired you can’t get it back.”

To learn more about the Grandparents Scam Starr Austen & Miller encourages everyone to read the alert posted on the FBI’s website. http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2012/april/grandparent_040212. Further, if you determine you’ve been the victim of such a scam file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, referred to as the IC3.

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Mark Fryman
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