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Security & privacy

The newest scam targeting grandparents’ coronavirus fears

Every now and then a particularly sinister scam enjoys some breakaway success. And now is no different, as scammers are capitalizing on COVID-19 fears to pressure unsuspecting victims into paying them.

Unfortunately, these kinds of scams are quite common, and now multiple U.S. government agencies have issued warnings about many that pertain to the coronavirus pandemic. Tap or click here to learn about what the IRS, Secret Service, and FTC recommend to stay safe.

One of the latest is actually a new take on an old scam, and it’s designed to take advantage of older generations. And this scam makes it important to verify that it really is a loved one calling — or if it’s just someone who’s just pretending to be.

What the FTC suggests about scams

In a post on the FTC’s official blog, an attorney for the FTC explains that “grandparent scams” have seen an increase amidst the coronavirus pandemic, though she notes that this type of scam is far from new: a scammer will call a grandparent, pretend to be a relative and lie about some sort of emergency that necessitates the grandparent send them some money immediately.

These days scammers are posing as sick grandchildren or the like and are using the ever-present threat of infection to scare more money out of people. Those calls will go something like this: “Grandma: I’m in the hospital, sick, please wire money right away,” or “Grandpa: I’m stuck overseas, please send money.”

Curious about other similar scams? Tap or click here to learn about another especially convincing fake phone call scam.

The call will sound panicked, with a sense of urgency. By pretending to be your family, scammers hope you’ll act quickly and send money before even considering you might be speaking with an imposter.

Don’t be taken by the grandparent scam

Scams such as this are created to take advantage of people’s emotions. The tips below can help you avoid being taken in this scam and others.

  • First, don’t act impulsively. Try to confirm what the caller is telling you. If something doesn’t sound right, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.
  • Pay attention to the details so you can verify who you’re speaking with. Just because the caller knows your name and is going by the real name of one of your grandchildren doesn’t mean it’s legit because that info isn’t hard to find. If a caller is claiming to be a family member but something sounds different than you’re used to, try asking a personal question only they would know or a personal detail they shouldn’t have to think about first to answer.
  • Never divulge personal information on the phone to someone you don’t know. An impromptu caller asking for your banking details, credit card information or social security is a massive red flag, unless you’re absolutely sure of the caller’s identity.
  • Don’t send money of any kind. A strange phone call from someone insisting you send them something right now, particularly cash, gift cards, or money transfers, is very likely a scam.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, so does the number of scams including some that deal with the stimulus relief payments. Tap or click learn to learn about five of those recent scams.

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