Just in time for Grandparents Day, BBB warns about scams targeting older people

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Sunday, September 7 is National Grandparents Day and Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests this is a good time for family members to talk about scams that target older people.

One popular scheme, dubbed the “Grandparent Scam”, is a variation on the Emergency Scam and is designed to fool seniors into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded, and in need of money.

Emergency scams can happen to anyone. Scammers make up an urgent situation — “I've been arrested,” “I've been mugged,” “I'm in the hospital” — and target friends and family with pleas for help…and money. However, oftentimes, scammers gear their pitch towards unsuspecting seniors with a plea that appears to be coming from their grandchild.

BBB offers these steps that families can take to avoid the Grandparent Scam.

Know the red flags. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild. The “grandchild” explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs help, perhaps caused a car accident or was arrested for drug possession. The "grandchild" pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for reasons posting bail, repairing the car, covering lawyer's fees, or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild has supposedly injured in a car accident.

Don’t disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their grandchild. If a caller says "It's me, Grandma!" don't respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. People should also be careful sharing too much travel information on social media.

Ask a personal question. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know such as the name of a cousin or pet. Be careful not to ask something that can be easily identified via a social media profile (such as the name of the grandchild’s school).

Communicate. If a student really is traveling, he or she should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country. Let your older loved ones know where you’ll be and when you plan to return. Make sure everyone in the family has contact information in case of emergency. This should include a cell phone number and email for the student and for anyone they are traveling with.