Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Scammers now using social media to swindle Grandparents

MESA COUNTY, Colo - The Mesa County Sheriff's Office is getting reports of the Grandparents Scam making the rounds again, but with a new twist. Scammers are using information possibly found on social media to make their scam more believable.

A person is calling seniors in our community pretending to be their grandson or granddaughter saying they are in a foreign country, in trouble, and need money.

Recently one person in Mesa County was scammed out of $400 after believing her granddaughter was in trouble in Canada. The scam sounded real because her granddaughter does in fact travel to Canada often, so the fake story the scammers were telling could have in fact been real. 

Spotting the Scam
The way to check and find out if it's a scam, CALL! Before sending any money, call the person they are claiming to be. It sounds simple, but when you are worried about your loved one, that simple step can easily be overlooked. If you can't get ahold of them, try to contact other family members, friends, or even their work to verify the story. That way if you do have to send money, you're loved one will get it, not a scammer!

Why people are falling victim
This scam is not new, scammers have been using it for years, but they are finding ways to make it sound even more real. Scammers are using details that they get through social media or from the person they are trying to scam. 

The scammer will usually start the conversation off with "Hi Grandma/Grandpa." Naturally, we typically respond with a hello and then say our loved one's name, like "Hi Megan," or "Is that you Bobby?" That's how scammers find out the person's grandchild's information, making the scam sound even more real. 

The scammers will also pose as the law enforcement agency of the foreign country and use a similar tactic to get your family member's name. Here's an example:
Scammer: "Hello ma'am, this is Officer Joe with the Canadian Police. Your grandson was arrested for drunk driving and he thought you might be able help him. Is that correct?"Victim: "Yes, of course! Is Mike, okay?

Be AWARE of what you post on social media
Social media is making it easy for scammers to use personal information posted to their advantage. If someone posts online they are going to Mexico on a trip for example. They most likely also have a picture of them with Grandma or Grandpa during the holidays. Maybe the photo even has a caption saying, "At Grandpa Joe's house in Grand Junction for Christmas." Now the scammer knows that person is in Mexico and has potential victim they can target in Grand Junction. 

Privacy settings are a great tool on social media, but the only way to ensure your privacy online is to monitor what you are posting. Be mindful of posts that talk about your location or family members locations. Going on a fantastic trip? Save all of those incredible pictures and tell everyone about it after you get back. Letting people know you're gone, also means your house will be empty and a good target for thieves. 

If you think you've been scammed call the Mesa County Sheriff's Office at (970) 244-3500.

Note an earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the amount of money the person in Mesa County was scammed as $4,000. The correct amount is $400.