At Freedom Credit Union, safeguarding your financial assets is our top priority—and we want to make you aware of a recent phone scam that has affected numerous consumers in our region.
How the Scam Works
Dubbed the “grandparent scam,” this devious practice starts with someone acquiring consumers’ personal information through various means, such as mining social media or purchasing data from cyber thieves. The impostor then uses that information to create a deceptive story that preys on the concerns of grandparents. Impersonating a grandchild or another close relative, the scammer calls the unwitting consumer and claims to be in a crisis and needing financial assistance. Sometimes the criminals “spoof” the caller ID to make it seem as though the name and number are coming from a trusted source.
The caller may falsely claim to have been involved in an accident or arrested and urge the grandparent not to inform the parents. They might even pass the phone to an accomplice posing as a lawyer who demands immediate cash payment, which a courier, collaborating with the scammers, will promptly pick up. Alternatively, imposters will often bully victims into wiring money, transferring money through a mobile payment app, or purchasing money orders or gift cards.
To make matters worse, bad actors can now use artificial intelligence to mimic voices. With just a short audio sample, they can clone a person’s voice within minutes, enabling them to “speak” whatever the imposter types.
The grandparent scam and similar cons have been on the rise, as evidenced by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) data from 2018 to 2022. During this period, the IC3 received a staggering 3.26 million complaints, resulting in reported losses of $27.6 billion.
How to Protect Yourself
- If you have doubts about a caller’s claimed identity, request specific information that is not readily available on social media to help determine the truth.
- If you are being pressured to share information or send money quickly, hang up and immediately report the incident to local law enforcement.
- Contact your family members directly to verify the authenticity of an emergency situation.
- File complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for unwanted calls and spoofing or with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as a consumer complaint.
- Ensure your social media account’s privacy settings are set to allow access only to people you know.
- Always verify the identity of police officers or other officials before providing any information.
- Be cautious of familiar-looking numbers on your caller ID and don’t let your guard down automatically.
- Refrain from volunteering information to callers, as scammers often use this information to enhance their impersonation tactics. Wait for the caller to provide specific details first.
FCU Has Your Back
Criminal and fraudulent activity never takes a break, and neither do we when it comes to protecting our members. When a parent or grandparent comes to one of our branches to withdraw a large amount of cash unexpectedly, it is our goal to intervene as appropriate and stop a potential scam before it happens.
If you suspect fraudulent activity involving your FCU account(s), call us at 413-739-6961 or toll free at 800-821-0160, or contact us via our website. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of an elder scam, contact IC3 to file a report. You can also check our Security Center regularly for fraud alerts and scam notices, as we try to keep you one step ahead.