October 20, 2017 | Posted in:

The Family Emergency Wire Money Scam: 4 Ways to Protect Yourself

“Hi, Grandmom. It’s Michael — your nephew. I need help. I’m in Europe on winter break from college. Last night I got mugged. They took everything. I’m okay, but I don’t have enough money to cover airfare to get home. Can you help by wiring money right away? I only need $1,200. I’ll pay you back as soon as I can.”

If you haven’t talked to your nephew in months and aren’t familiar with his voice, you could fall victim to this con. It’s called the “family emergency” or “grandparent” scam. While it seems like common sense that this ploy is a scam, there are many elderly individuals that have fallen victim to this exact setup.

And worst of all, per Ren Cicalese III, “Once you wire the money, it’s gone. It’s important to be sure this is actually a relative before you send anything.”

Family Emergency Scam Background

Here’s how the scam works: a con artist gets just enough information about your family to develop a plausible impersonation. In some cases, the person hacks into your email or social networking accounts (or the accounts of someone you know) to get basic data about your family (e.g., names, addresses and phone numbers).

He or she may enlist the help of an accomplice acting the part of a lawyer, police officer or health care worker. This person verifies the seriousness of the emergency and confirms the need to send cash right away.

The goal is to steal your money by playing on your emotions. Protect yourself from this type of shady scheme by following these four guidelines:

  • Let your emotions cool.A con artist hopes you’ll make a rash decision. No matter how dramatic the story, take time to consider the nature and plausibility of the “emergency.” Often a phone call or two will unmask the scammer.

    Adds Ren III, “A common technique used by these scammers are that they swear you to secrecy. This is one way you can quickly spot a scam.”

  • Verify the facts.Ask the caller about a family event or other fact he or she wouldn’t likely know. Confirm the story with family and friends. Is your nephew really traveling in Europe?
  • Know what’s posted online.If you or your friends routinely post particulars about your family events on the Internet, scammers may find it easier to develop detailed family profiles. Use privacy settings to limit what you share.
  • Do not wire money.Unless you’re absolutely certain that the caller can be trusted, hold on to your cash. Once money is transferred, you may not see it again.

If you believe you’ve responded to a fraudulent request or scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, your state attorney general and the local police.


How to spot scams & cons

If it sounds too good…

According to the FBI, there are over 14,000 scam artists at work on any given day. Perhaps the information presented here will help you avoid becoming a victim. If you have questions, please call us. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it may well be a scam.

© MC 2017 | “Fraud Alert” is published monthly to provide useful information about scams and cons. Return to this site every month for helpful suggestions on how to avoid fraud. The information contained in this site is of a general nature and should not be acted upon in your specific situation without further details and/or professional assistance.


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