The FBI Miami is issuing this public safety message about a fraud scheme known as the grandparent scam, where victims are told that a grandchild is under arrest and needs bail money. The grandparent is then instructed to wrap the money a certain way and give it to a ride share service driver.
From January 2020 to June 2021, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 650 reports of potential grandparent scams, resulting in losses of more than $13 million. During that timeframe, over 90 victims reported money was picked up from their home, resulting in losses of more than $3.6 million.
“Victims should be aware that law enforcement would never contact a family member to collect bail money on behalf of a grandchild and legal professionals also do not conduct business in this manner,” said Zacharia Baldwin, supervisor of FBI Miami’s complex financial crimes squad. “These scammers do their research on social media platforms and dating sites in order to make their demands sound feasible and try to create a false urgency in order to get their victims to act immediately.”
Use the following tips in order to protect yourself from this type of scam:
- Be careful what you post online. Scammers can use details shared on social media platforms and dating sites for targeting purposes.
- Be suspicious of telephone calls that require you to immediately take action and request bail money for a family member in distress. Contact the family member directly for confirmation.
- Be careful with caller IDs that look familiar. Scammers may use technology to disguise the actual number they are calling from (“spoof”) and make it appear as a trusted number.
- Never give personal identifiable information or money to anyone you have only communicated with by telephone or online.
If you believe you have been a victim of a grandparent fraud scheme, report the fraud to your local FBI field office. The FBI also encourages victims to report fraudulent or suspicious activities to the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov.