Like me, I hope you have fond memories of your grandparents.  When invited to grandma’s house for lunch, I could always count on having something on the table she knew I liked.  Grandparents are very special and we need to care for them as much as they care for us. 

Unfortunately our grandparents, parents and older adults are the target of many types of scams received over the phone or via an email.  These scams attempt to deceive with promises of goods, services, financial benefits or the need to send money to pay taxes, fees or to help someone they love.  Their stories are contrived for one purpose and one purpose only, to get money.  Below is just one example of these schemes.

Scammers place a call to an older person and when they answer, the scammer will say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer has established a fake identity without having done a lick of background research.

Once “in,” the fake grandchild will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.), to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which don’t always require identification to collect. At the same time, the scam artist will beg the grandparent “please don’t tell my parents, they would kill me.”

One of the best ways to protect our loved ones from these types of tactics is to talk with them about it.  Building awareness is the first step.  If they are willing, another step might be helping them with paying bills and balancing their bank accounts.

If you have been or know someone who has been a victim; don’t be afraid to talk about it with someone you trust. You are not alone, and there are people who can help. Doing nothing could only make it worse. Keep handy the phone numbers and resources you can turn to, including the local police, your bank (if money has been taken from your accounts), and Adult Protective Services at 1-855-444-3911.  Call anytime day or night to report suspected abuse of vulnerable adults.

While growing up I remember being told “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is” This has always been good advice when it comes to the many money making scams that seem to plague our world. There are many types of fake check scams, but it all seems to start when a scam artist convinces you to take a check from them, deposit into your account and then wire a portion of the check to another account somewhere in the world. Both the check and their story are phony, but that could take days to discover. However, when the check you deposited comes back as a fake, and it will, the bank is going to expect you to get the money back. You are responsible for the checks you deposit into a bank account. There is no legitimate reason why anyone would give you a check or money order and ask you to wire money anywhere in return.
Here are some good steps to take if you receive a check for anything:
Wait 10 business days after deposit – Most of these scams require you to deposit the money and then withdraw the portion they want you to wire immediately. If you wait 10 business days, you will know if the check is a fake. This can also be helpful when selling something online and the purchaser wants to pay via money order or cashier check and have someone else pick it up. Cash is always a good way to go with these types of deals.
Ask for a check drawn on a local bank – If the check is drawn on a local bank or the bank has a branch in your area, you can make a personal visit to make sure the cashier check or money order is valid. Don’t do anything until you are able to validate the check. Best practice is to only except a check from someone you know and trust.
Don’t be pressured – Scam artists always use urgency and high-pressure to get you to do what they want. If you start feeling or realize the other person is using these tactics, it is a good sign to walk away.
As a reminder, there is no legitimate reason why anyone would give you a check or money order and ask you to wire money anywhere in return, EVER!
Check back for more information on the next Mercantile Bank Security Minute.