Authorities warn of family emergency scams this holiday season | News
(Gray) — There’s a scam to watch out for that’s a little different than the usual holiday-season fraud. It involves a call from someone saying they’re a family member or close friend in trouble and need money, but the Federal Trade Commission told our national investigative team to slow down and verify the story first because it could be a scammer.
The FTC said it’s called a family emergency scam. The imposters will use scare tactics to pressure you into wiring them money, sending them gift cards, or even paying them with cryptocurrency. Don’t fall for it!
The FTC added that the fraud can play out in many ways, but the hustle is the same. The scammer likely already knows a lot about you, like your name, where you live, and other information they could find on social media or by hacking a family member’s account. Then, they call you pretending to be someone you know. The con artists will use words like “urgent” and ask you to keep it a “secret,” hoping you’ll act quickly without checking to see if your loved one is in trouble.
“These people are trolling and they’re phishing, right, so they’re going to make a thousand calls and maybe one or two people will bite and that’s all it takes. A lot of money to be made through this type of scam,” said Ira Rheingold with the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
Rheingold said victims are typically seniors and people who are not tech savvy.
“When you have friends and relatives, your neighbors, who you know may be vulnerable, have that conversation with them. Ask them if they’ve gotten any phone calls lately? Have you gotten some strange phone calls? What do you do when a stranger calls? Teach them, prompt them,” Rheingold added.
If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for cash. here’s what you can do:
Resist the pressure to send money right away. Just hang up.
Call or message the family member or friend who supposedly contacted you. Call them at a phone number that you know is right. Check if they’re in trouble.
Call someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if the caller said to keep it a secret. A trusted person can help you figure out whether the story is really true.
Scammers often ask you to pay in ways that makes it tough to get your money back like through wire transfers or bank accounts. No matter how you paid, the sooner you act, the better. If you sent money to a scammer or spot something suspicious, report it to the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov.