MADISON,WI– Scam artists are using the spring break season to try and trick people into thinking family or friends are in urgent need of cash while "on vacation."
"It's a scam that's been around for years, and it's turning up again in Wisconsin," said Sandy Chalmers, Administrator of the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection. "Scam artists use names of family members and friends and fake emergencies to stir up emotions and cloud the judgment of their personal victims. Resisting the pressure to act immediately is a person's best defense."
Pleas for fraudulent financial help are made by e-mail and telephone. Scam attempts initiated by phone tend to target senior citizens – this approach is commonly referred to as the "grandparents scam." In some cases, the caller may actually know the names of family members and pull off a clever impersonation. In the e-mail approach, the scam artist sends a message from a family member or friend's legitimate e-mail address after hacking their account. (Two current e-mail examples are included as an attachment to this news release.) Both contact methods involve the scam artist asking for money to be wired, right away, to help resolve a vacation-related emergency.
"Victims are often unaware of their mistake until they talk with their loved one or friend who knows nothing about the call or e-mail for help," added Chalmers. "Because wiring money is the same as sending cash, the chance of recovery is slim to none."
The Bureau of Consumer Protection offers these tips to avoid being taken advantage of by a fake emergency:
Check out the story before sending any money. Try to directly contact the family member or friend, at a phone number you know is accurate, to verify the situation.
Remember some impostors research the people they are pretending to be and can answer basic questions about them.
Never give out your Social Security, bank, or credit card numbers to any caller – regardless of the reason.
Establish a "safe word" or "code word" with your family members and close friends for use in a real emergency.
When contact is made by e-mail, be suspicious of messages that include poor grammar, spelling errors, and incorrect punctuation. (The attached examples include several of these indicators.)