Imagine getting a call in the middle of the night. The voice on the other end is a loved one who has run into trouble – they’re too upset to give details, but they need bail fast. They ask you to wire them money, and beg you not to tell anyone else. Later you find out your relative never called you. This scenario is, in fact, the grandparent bail bond scam.
According to the FBI article “The Grandparent Scam: Don’t Let It Happen to You,” the scam is named for the common practice of targeting grandparents by posing as their grandchildren. Other permutations exist; con artists often pose as relatives or friends, and may even target military families. Sometimes the money is needed due to customs, theft, or medical bills. Particularly organized scams may have an accomplice pose as a police officer, doctor, or other official likely to be involved.
The Consumer Federation of America includes more details about the scam in their article “Protect Yourself from the “Grandparent Scam.”” Scammers may use social media or newspaper articles to research targets, or they may use spam to reach as many people as possible. They may even use their target’s comments to better masquerade as a relative.
Both articles indicate several actions you can take to protect yourself from this scam. During a call, asking a question that only a relative would know might reveal an imposter. Meanwhile, do not send money unless you can confirm the person in question is who they claim they are. The FBI further recommends contacting other friends and relatives to verify the story. If you have already been victimized, stop the money transfer if possible and contact local law enforcement quickly.
Scams prey on human nature, and the grandparent bail scam is no exception. Helping a relative in distress is admirable, but you need to remain calm and think critically. By doing so, you can prevent from falling victim to scammers.