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Don't Fall for a Spring Break ‘Grandparent Scam’

By Admin on March 15, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You may not associate spring break with grandparents, but some con artists do. They're out to target tender-hearted seniors with spring break grandparent scams.

The Better Business Bureau and even the U.S. State Department have issued warnings about these scams, which typically begin with a frantic phone call to a grandparent. The caller pretends to be a grandchild away on spring break, and will insist that he is in some sort of trouble and needs help immediately. This will often involve the need to wire money as quickly as possible.

The call may get interrupted by static, and the caller may say he only has a few minutes to talk. Another person may also get on the line, and claim he's a lawyer or police officer. As a result, grandparents may rush to deliver money without asking too many questions.

The BBB's warning is aimed at both grandparents and college students, as social media activity may be providing fodder for con artists. How? Students often post their travel plans online to share with their friends -- including detailed itineraries complete with pictures, reports the BBB. This allows criminals to paint a fairly realistic picture for grandparents of far-off places their grandkids are visiting, and the potential troubles they can get into.

To avoid falling for a spring break grandparent scam, the BBB offers these tips:

  1. Students: Share travel plans with your family. It is important for students to share their travel plans and contact information. However, they should share these travel plans and information only with immediate family members and not the whole world.

  2. Confirm the caller's identity. If you receive a call from a supposed family member claiming that they are in trouble, and the caller sounds suspicious, you should first confirm the person's identity before turning over any information like credit card or bank account information. For example, you may want to ask personal details about the caller's childhood.

  3. Watch for red flags. Anytime someone asks you to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram, alarms bells should be going off. Wiring money is a common tactic for criminals as these are very difficult to track. Once you wire the funds, they've virtually disappeared.

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