In recognition of National Grandparent's Day this Sunday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning families to beware of phone scams targeting grandparents.
In a typical "grandparent" phone scam, a grandparent receives a phone call from someone posing as a grandchild. The caller claims to be in trouble and in urgent need of money, maybe to pay a fine or to keep the grandchild out of jail. The grandparent is asked to send money immediately, often out of the country, using a prepaid money card or wire transfer. In other variations of the scam, the person on the phone asks for iTunes gift cards. The caller will often ask the grandparent not to "tell Mom or Dad."
"Scammers believe grandparents are easy targets because of the special relationship many have with their grandchildren," Attorney General DeWine said. "We want to make sure families are educated about the kinds of scams that are out there, so they don't become victims."
Grandparents who send money or gift cards likely will receive additional calls requesting more money. The scammer will claim that more money is needed to help the grandchild return home safely. Eventually, grandparents discover that their grandchild was not in trouble.
Ohioans can keep the following tips in mind to help prevent becoming a victim of this scam:
- Communicate with your family members. Talk to your family about scams and discuss how you would communicate during a true emergency. If you receive a call from a grandchild or another family member who claims to be in trouble, contact someone else (such as the grandchild’s parents) to determine if the person truly needs your help, even if you’ve been instructed not to contact anyone else. When in doubt, ask questions only your real family members would know how to answer, such as the last time you saw each other.
- Limit the amount of information you share online. Don’t post upcoming travel plans or detailed personal information online, and encourage your family members to take similar precautions. Check your account privacy settings and limit who can view your information. Be aware that scammers may use information posted on social media or publicly available online to learn more about their targets and to make their ploys seem believable.
- Be wary of unusual payment requests. If a caller demands that you pay over the phone using a gift card or a prepaid reloadable card, it’s likely a scam. Also be wary of requests for payment via wire transfer. These are preferred payment methods for scammers because it is difficult to trace or recover the payment once it is provided.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office warns consumers about scams and offers a variety of educational materials, including a phone scams checklist.
Ohioans who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.