“It happens all the time,” Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said recently. “A breathtaking amount of money is lost.”
They’re convincing, authorities say, because quick-talking scammers who pose as family members or friends have urgent pleas that tug on the heartstrings. Sometimes they ask for bail money or say they’re stranded or hurt and need cash fast.
Bennett said people who get these types of calls should avoid saying their grandchild or loved one’s name to the caller and not talk about anything personal.
“The trick is to hang up. … Don’t talk to them. These are never legitimate,” he said.
Luckily, Sunderland didn’t end up losing any money to his caller.
He caught on when the man’s voice momentarily slipped, revealing an accent. So he asked his wife to quickly dial his grandson’s number from another phone to confirm that he was safe and at home with his family.
The grandson was.
“I gave that information to the man I was talking to, and he immediately hung up,” Sunderland said.
TIPS FOR VERIFYING FAMILY EMERGENCY CALLS
If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for money, here’s what the Federal Trade Commission suggests you do:
— Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
— Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.
— Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine.
— Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
— Don’t wire money or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
— Report possible fraud at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 877-FTC-HELP.