You’ve heard about the popular “Grandparent Scam”. An aging parent receives a frantic phone call from someone claiming to be a young-adult grandchild in trouble. The grandchild is vague about family references but they ask for money in a hurry because they are away from home and in trouble.
The grandparent is pulled into the scam because they are anxious to help their grandchild and there is a sense of urgency. The aging parent is glad to be needed and unwittingly follows instructions and wires money to the scammer.
In a new twist on this successful scam, suspect callers may ask seniors to go to the nearest grocery store and purchase a cash card. The purchaser pre-loads a cash value onto the card and the card serves as cash.
The scammer phones again and asks for account numbers found on the back of the card and the money is gone. The cash card is easy to purchase and load with cash, few cashiers may be aware that the card purchase is part of a scam, and the senior may not be suspicious because the scam does not involve wiring money through an agency such as Western Union. Most seniors and their families have heard the warnings against falling prey to callers needing money and the mere mention of wiring money may raise alarm. The success of the cash card is that it is available at almost every grocery store checkout counter and is easy to use.
Be smart and cautious:
1. Do not talk to someone you don’t know. Be aware of an especially chatty stranger.
2. Do not wire or electronically transfer money to anyone.
3. Use your answering machine to pre-screen calls.
4. If you feel you MUST help, call a trusted family member or official to verify the information BEFORE sharing confidential information, banking details or giving money.
Unfortunately, seniors fall victim to scams at an alarming rate. Please visit Houston’s Better Business Bureau website for an update on scams in your area.