Spring breakers beware – don't let your relatives fall victim to the 'grandparent scam'

Elderly residents are being targeted by scammers over spring break.
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Here's something to alert your family about – elderly Minnesotans are being targeted by a so-called "grandparent scam."

The warning has been re-issued by the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ahead of spring break, when students and young adults head off on vacation.

This means relatives who stay at home are vulnerable to the grandparent scheme, as scammers contact seniors over the phone and pretend to be their grandchild or a loved one in distress, often in another country.

What do they need from the grandparent? Money of course, and the fraudsters convince the victims to wire them money and not to tell the "grandchild's" parents.

The BBB says the scam has been quite a successful one, with CEO and President Susan Adam Loyd saying it "plays on emotion."

"Grandparents, especially, are protective of their grandchildren and will do nearly anything to ensure their well-being," she said. "Scammers are all too aware of that."

How it works, and how to stop it

The scammers feed off the information you give them. When victims pick up the phone they'll say "Grandpa/Grandma, it's me" and wait for the victim to guess their name, which they then use to convince them they're in trouble and need money.

"Don't take the bait," the BBB says, adding: "Make them tell you their identity."

Remaining calm is another important way to combat it. The caller will really try to sell the scam using emotion, they might break into tears for example, telling the grandparent that they're in jail and need bail money.

"Ask direct questions only your grandchild would be able to answer," the BBB advises.

Also, before your grandchild leaves on their trip, it's worth finding out as much as you can about where they're going, who they're with, to figure out whether a scam is unfolding. The bureau says callers telling you not to talk to anyone else about their plight is another red flag.

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