ROXBURY, NJ – On the same day a colleague at nearby Hopatcong Police Department was rejoicing a decision by Green Dot to discontinue its scammer-friendly MoneyPak loadable debit cards, Roxbury Police said they’ve been seeing yet another type of telephone fraud.
“We had had several residents report the ‘Family Member in Trouble Scam,’” Roxbury police said on their Facebook page. “Scammers may pose as relatives or friends, calling or sending messages to urge you to wire money immediately.”
The warning by Roxbury police came almost simultaneously with a note from Hopatcong Police Lt. Thomas Kmetz in which the lieutenant expressed happiness about Green Dot’s decision to discontinue the MoneyPak debit cards. The cards are frequently used by scammers.
As is usually the case, the fraudsters in the Family Member in Trouble Scams tend to target the elderly. “They’ll say they need cash to help with an emergency — like getting out of jail, paying a hospital bill or needing to leave a foreign country,” police said. “Their goal is to trick you into sending money before you realize it’s a scam. We have also had a scammer state that the relative has been kidnapped or in a terrible accident.”
According to a report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), shared by Roxbury police, the criminals are good at faking it. “They impersonate your loved one convincingly,” said the FTC. “It’s surprisingly easy for a scam artist to impersonate someone. Social networking sites make it easier than ever to sleuth out personal and family information. Scammers also could hack into the e-mail account of someone you know. To make their story seem legitimate, they may involve another crook who claims to be an authority figure, like a lawyer or police officer.”
The FTC said the purveyors of the scam play on their targets’ emotions. “Scammers are banking on your love and concern to outweigh your skepticism,” said the FTC.
It pointed to one version of the scam in which, con artists “impersonate grandchildren in distress to trick concerned grandparents into sending money. Sometimes, this is called a ‘Grandparent Scam.’”
The FTC said the tricksters sometimes also use fear tactics, insisting that people keep their request for money confidential, a move designed to prevent their targets from investigating their story and finding out they are phonies. “Victims of this scam often don’t realize they’ve been tricked until days later, when they speak to their actual family member or friend who knows nothing about the “emergency.” By then, the money they sent can't be recovered,” said the FTC.
Additionally, the bad guys instill a sense of urgency. The FTC said they often insist that money be wired immediately. They “pressure people into wiring money because it’s like sending cash – once it’s gone, you can’t trace it or get it back. Imposters encourage using money transfer services so they can get your money before you realize you’ve been scammed.”