There’s a new twist on the grandparent scam circulating, according to the Federal Trade Commission and Iowa Attorney General. Here are the warning signs you should watch for, how to protect yourself and how to report suspected scams.

What is the grandparent scam and how is it different now?

For many years, scammers have targeted seniors by claiming to be their grandchild in a crisis and in need of cash. They gather information about the grandchild on social media or by other means and then call, email or text the grandparent impersonating the child. They claim to be in a crisis – common stories include being kidnapped, robbed, in a car accident, jailed, or experiencing a medical crisis – and urge the grandparent to send money via wire transfer or credit, debit or a prepaid card.

A new twist to this scam involves the scammers telling the grandparents a courier will come to their home to collect the funds. The couriers often pose as attorneys and other professionals and tell victims they’re subject to a gag order and cannot tell anyone about sending money. After the initial payment, the grandparents often receive calls for additional funds to be sent via USPS, FedEx or UPS.

How to protect yourself from grandparent scams

Here are few ways you can protect yourself and your loved ones from scammers:

  • Set strict privacy settings on your social media accounts so only people you know can access personal information about you.
  • If you receive a call urging you to send money, verify the caller’s identity by asking questions a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.
  • Don’t panic. Scammers use urgency as a tactic. No matter how urgent the crisis seems, resist the urge to act quickly and think through your options first.
  • Don’t keep it a secret. Call the family member’s genuine phone number to confirm they are OK.
  • Share these tips with others. Scammers are counting on their victims not being aware of common scams and warning signs!

How to report suspected grandparent scams

Reporting the scam can help avoid other scam efforts and protect our vulnerable senior population. If you suspect you’re the target of a grandparent scam, file a report to the Federal Trade Commission or to your state’s Attorney General. If you live in Iowa, you can report scams by email, consumer@ag.iowa.gov, or by phone, 515-281-5926.

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