Building a Digital Defense Against a New Kind of Grandparent Scam

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Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against a new, scarier version of the grandparent scam. 

Here’s how it works: grandparents receive a call from one of their “grandchildren.”  The grandchild’s voice may not sound right, but the grandchild explains this is due to Covid-19 or some other illness such as strep throat. 

The grandchild explains he or she is in legal trouble and needs some money to get bailed out of jail. When the grandparent agrees to provide funds, the grandchild also mentions there is a “gag order” in this case, and the grandparent shouldn’t discuss this with anyone. So far – this is a typical kind of elder fraud case that we’ve seen before. 

In the past, there was a heavy emphasis on payment by pre-paid gift cards or wire transfers. But, here’s the new twist: the fraudsters are demanding cash, which they want picked up in person. A supposed “bail bondsman” shows up at the victim’s home, increasing the potential physical risk to the victim. He reminds the grandparents of the gag order and to not talk about the case. 

After the initial payment, the grandparents will receive calls for additional money to be sent via U.S. Mail, FedEx, UPS, or other such service. 

Here’s how to protect yourself & your family: 

  • Don’t respond to demands for immediate action. The scammers will use fear to manipulate you, trying to get you to act without thinking. 

  • If you receive an unexpected call such as this, check first with your family members first to see if the story is true. 

  • Don’t open door for strangers, and don’t believe someone who tells you can’t report something to law enforcement. 

If you or a family member has been contacted by one of these grandparent scammers, make sure to report it to your local FBI office. If you live in Oregon, the number is (503) 224-4181. You can also report such scams at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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