December , 2018

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(A message from the Better Business Bureau)



Chicago, ILSeniors are an attractive demographic for scammers and in the “Grandparent Scam” the kindness of the elderly is exploited. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) is warning well-meaning seniors about “emergency” scams designed to fool them into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded, and in need of money.


According to recent FBI reports, the “Grandparent Scam” has been around since 2008 and social media has made it possible for scammers to have access to more personal information. They impersonate the victim’s grandchildren and make up an urgent situation – “I’ve been arrested,” “I’ve been mugged,” “I’m in the hospital” – and target friends and family with urgent pleas for help, and to wire money.


“The ‘Grandparent Scam’ plays off people’s emotions and when they hear that a family member needs help they get caught up in the moment,” said Steve J. Bernas, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It is important to be sure that you are speaking with a family member and ask questions to verify their identity.”


The BBB offers the following tips to avoid the “Grandparent Scam”:

  • Communicate. Teens should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.
  • Share information. Teens should provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind teens to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.
  • Know the red flags. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild. The “grandchild” explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs help, perhaps caused a car accident or was arrested for drug possession. The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for different reasons such as posting bail, repairing the car, covering lawyer’s fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.   
  • Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, the BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their grandchild. If a caller says “It’s me, Grandma!” don’t respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that only the grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name. 

For more consumer tips, visit www.bbb.org


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