Your grandson is on the line. Maybe you don’t recognize the number, or the connection isn’t the best. But when you hear the first words, you heart drops.
“Granddad, I’m in trouble.”
So, you listen as your heart rate picks up, then begins to race.
“I got in some trouble down in Florida. I need your help.”
What grandparent wouldn’t want to drop everything? So, you ask questions: how much money do they need? Where do you send it? Because nothing means more to you than family, you don’t even think about what’s happening, only how you can come to the rescue.
And, before you know it, you’re the latest crime statistic in a growing scam called impostor fraud.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans lost $667 million to impostor scams in 2019.
“Urgency is a huge giveaway,” said Jon Kucharski, fraud strategy manager at Regions. “Unless you know with certainty that it’s a life or death situation, it can wait. Don’t be bullied into doing something right then. The simplest way to stop fraud is to slow it down. You do that by putting in a natural pause.”
Yes, it’s that simple. Take a break. Take a deep breath. Then take the next logical step to verify the call.
Scammers posing as family members — or the police, courthouse officials, banks and even the IRS – have done their homework. Through social engineering, they’ve pulled family names. They know where you work and where you live. Because it’s all out there on the internet, and there’s no pulling it back.
They’re going to use that information to take your money, or even more personal information, unless you fight back.
“If it’s a family member – or someone posing as a family member – call them directly, call their parent, their aunt and uncle, or call their sibling,” Kucharski added. “Someone in the family will know what’s going on.”
Yet fighting back is pretty easy.
In fact, being aware of these key warning signs can help keep you safe:
- A heightened sense of urgency and aggressive behavior
The caller is preying on your emotions and trying to push you to quick action.
- A destitute family member who needs immediate financial help
Taking a deep breath reminds you that there’s always time to think a solution through.
- The immediate need for help getting medicine
Again, a call to someone in the family you trust can determine if the request is real.
You can also protect yourself by being aware of obvious warning signs.
“Asking for a gift card to pay bail is a red flag,” said Jeff Taylor, Regions’ head of commercial fraud forensics. “The police aren’t going to accept a gift card for payments. Bail hearings don’t work that way.”
Impostor scams aren’t limited to family members. One of the most popular is a phone call from the IRS, demanding immediate payment.
“The IRS isn’t going to call you and ask for your private information,” Taylor said
The simplest way to stop fraud is to slow it down. You do that by putting in a natural pause.
Jon Kucharski, fraud strategy manager at Regions
Still, emotions can get the best of anyone.
“It’s human nature to want to help others in need,” Kucharski said. “That’s how we are wired, and that’s a good thing.”
Protect yourself, learn the steps to take and red flags to avoid. If you do fall victim to an impostor scam reach out to the FTC. You can report fraud and help others avoid the same fate at this website: https://reportfraud.ftc.gov.
And you can stay on top of fraud prevention with the new resource page from Regions at www.regions.com/fraudprevention.
The information presented is general in nature and should not be considered, legal, accounting or tax advice. Regions reminds its customers that they should be vigilant about fraud and security and that they are responsible for taking action to protect their computer systems. Fraud prevention requires a continuous review of your policies and practices, as the threat evolves daily. There is no guarantee that all fraudulent transactions will be prevented or that related financial losses will not occur. Visit regions.com/stopfraud, or speak with your banker for further information on how you can help prevent fraud.