Don’t let concern for family or friends allow you to fall prey to ‘grandparent scam’

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QUINCY — You might have heard of “phishing” phone calls or messages, where a scammer pretends to be someone from your bank, tech support or a government agency to get your personal info or money.

But what happens when you get a scam call that seems like it’s from someone you know?

Emergency scams, sometimes called grandparent scams, take advantage of a person’s concern for their friends and family.

You get an urgent call, voicemail or text message from someone claiming to be a loved one. They say they need money right away to get out of trouble, and they might provide convincing details like names of people you know or the school you went to.

In the “grandparent” version of this scam, fraudsters target older adults and impersonate their grandchildren over the phone to ask for money.

Emergency scams have been around for a long time – but more recent versions of the scam use messages that are generated by AI or made to sound like your loved one using voice cloning techniques making it difficult to tell if they’re really from someone you know.

If you’re not sure about a phone call or message, remember it’s okay to stop and double check, even if the person says it’s urgent.

What to do if you get an urgent call or message:

  • Stop and think before you react. If you’re scared or taken off guard, you may be less likely to notice that something isn’t right. Pause before acting and try to remain calm. Ask questions only the real person would know. If you need to collect your thoughts, there’s nothing wrong with hanging up and telling the person you will call them right back.
  • Double-check the source. Call the person directly (or ask someone you trust to call them) to double-check if they were really the one who contacted you. Check the caller ID on voicemails, but remember that caller ID can be spoofed.
  • Protect your information online. Scammers check your social media profiles to get personal details that they use to convince you their message is real. Be cautious about the information you put online and consider setting your social media profiles to private. Encourage your friends and family to do the same.
  • When in doubt, don’t send money. Trust your gut and don’t send money if you have any doubts about the situation, even if the person who contacted you says it’s urgent. Scammers will ask you to send money in ways that make it hard to get your money back – so if someone asks you to send money through a payment app, prepaid gift card, cryptocurrency or wire transfer, that’s a red flag.
  • Don’t answer your door. If you are told that someone will come to your home to pick up the money, don’t answer your door and call the police immediately.

Don O’Brien is the regional director for the Quincy Better Business Bureau. Contact him at dobrien@quincybbb.org or (217) 209-3972.

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