Grandparent Scams are on the Rise & ID Theft Concerns

September 27, 2012 (CHICAGO)

According to recent FBI reports, the "Grandparent Scam" has been around since 2008, but there has been a surge recently. Retirees are an attractive target for financial scammers. As noted by Western Union, emergency scams play off of peoples' emotions and strong desire to help others in need. Scammers impersonate their victims and make up an urgent situation - "I've been arrested," "I've been mugged," "I'm in the hospital" - and target friends and family with urgent pleas for help, and money.

BBB offers the following tips to avoid the Grandparent Scam:

Communicate. Teens should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.

Share information. Teens should provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind students to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.

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 injured in a car accident.

Ask a personal question, but 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. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that the grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name.

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Better Business Bureau Web Survey Reveals Consumers Focus On Wrong Issues In Their Concern About ID Theft

Chicago, IL - September 6, 2012 - Fear of lost or stolen credit cards ranks as the highest identity theft concern among consumers. However, more serious and costly threats are considered less worrisome, according to a poll by the Better Business Bureau in August 2012.

Thirty percent of the respondents ranked credit card loss or theft as their greatest ID protection concern. Another 23 percent worried hackers would steal credit card and personal data from a business database. Rated least concerning, by 14 percent of those responding, was the disposal of personal papers in the garbage. Also low on the anxiety list was use of credit card information online (18 percent) or on the telephone (15 percent).

"Losing or having a credit card stolen is certainly a worry," said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "However, credit card companies have elaborate security programs to quickly stop credit access and limit consumer financial exposure to fraudulent use. On a rating scale, credit card loss is towards the less distressful end, though it should always be guarded against."

Bernas explained that consumers should be most worried about the material they have the most control over, their personal papers in the trash. Yet, he said, this was the area where the fewest expressed concern.

"Papers with personal data and credit card numbers on them can be a treasure trove of information for fraudsters, and a serious risk to consumers," said Bernas. "Shredding these types of documents is essential for any type of personal identity protection plan.

"Personal documents that are not shredded can be used without any safeguards or the consumer's knowledge until the person's credit score suffers or a bill appears from use of a credit card that the consumer never applied for." Hackers getting access to business databases is a growing concerning and one that will likely continue, Bernas noted. However, businesses continue to take action and improve their security.

"Consumers need to take control over what they have their hands on," urged Bernas. "Guard credit cards and shred any documents with personal information. These are two actions every person can take to lessen the risk of their identity being stolen."

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