Three times in two days, BBB received calls from elderly Treasure Valley residents who said they were called in the “grandparent” scam.
The most disturbing, yet gratifying, call came from a woman who had withdrawn $2,600 from her account and was ready to wire-transfer the money to Mexico to help her grandson.
“When I went to send the money, the clerk said I couldn’t,” the 83-year-old woman says. “She told me it was a scam and to call the Better Business Bureau to report it.”
To stop scammers from using electronic cash transfers, the BBB and Western Union have united to create the BBB Scam Stopper.
This educational campaign should help people in the United States and Canada avoid common scams that con artists use to commit consumer fraud. The grandparent scam is one.
“Western Union devotes extensive resources to stopping fraud,” says Shelley Bernhardt, the company’s director of consumer protection.
“Our agents are trained to intervene if they suspect a customer is the victim of a scam. Through our partnership with BBB, we aim to give consumers the information and resources they need to protect themselves and help stop fraud before it gets that far.”
Consumer fraud is a serious problem in North America. According to the Federal Trade Commission and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, consumers reported losing more than $1.5 billion in 2011.
BBB investigates thousands of scams every year, and we know the tactics that scammers commonly use. Some of these scams involve the wire transfer of funds, so Western Union is the ideal partner for this campaign.
The best defense against fraud is awareness and education.
It’s crucial for consumers and business owners to recognize scams before they become victims.
Western Union is a leader in payment services, offering personal and business customers with a reliable way to send electronic payments and to buy money orders.
On the Scam Stopper website, consumers can find facts and tips to stay informed and help reduce their chances of becoming a victim of a scam.
The site also explains scams and how scammers use many “sales tactics” used by legitimate businesses.
Visitors can also sign up to receive BBB Scam Alerts, weekly emails with the latest scams reported to BBBs across the country.
The site highlights common scams, including:
Æ Emergency scams (a friend or family member has an emergency, often in another country, and needs money).
Æ Overpayment scams (a buyer overpays and asks for the difference wired back to them).
Æ Sweepstakes and Lottery scams (you’ve won a lot of money, but you have to pre-pay taxes before claiming your prize).
The education process appears to be working, as the two other elderly people recognized the scams and told the scammers off and hung up on them.