(PCM) It is summer time and many people will be out and about traveling to all sorts of exciting locales throughout the world and of course sharing their vacation stories and photos across their various social media channels, which of course includes Facebook. In a scam that surfaced several years ago and unfortunately continues to operate today, scammers target individuals on Facebook who they can see are traveling and are able to pinpoint their exact location based upon the users shared photos and information. The scammers then contact the families of these individuals saying that their son or daughter is in trouble or has been arrested in which ever city or country they are visiting and they must send fast cash to either help or bail them out of trouble.
Overly-trusting and vulnerable parents/grandparents, concerned about the well-being of their family in turn shell out money to the person that they believe is helping out their family member, however those funds are headed directly into the pocket of a scam artist. It is a terribly unfortunate situation, but there are a few tips to protect you and your family members from falling victim to this scheme.
1. Try contacting the family member at a known phone number, not a phone number provided to you by the scammer
2. Try to limit the amount of personal information you share on social media sites, especially information such as phone numbers, addresses, and upcoming vacation plans.
3. Come up with a secret code or password to share with close friends and family members to decide if a situation is truly an emergency.
4. Be wary if the caller asks for the money to be wire transferred, especially to another country
5. If you receive such a call or email, you should verify the identity and location of the family member claiming to be in trouble. You should hang up and call another family member who can confirm your family member’s whereabouts. Stay calm and avoid acting out of a sense of urgency. Do not wire money unless you have verified with an independent third party that your family member is indeed truly in trouble.
6. Never give out any personal identifying information such as bank account or credit card numbers to anyone who calls you on the phone or sends you an email or Facebook message. Scam artists will lie, cheat, steal, and make up plausible stories to convince you to wire money or divulge sensitive information. These individuals are often professional criminals who are skillfully able to get you to wire money or give personal information before you have time to properly assess the situation.
Following these tips should help protect your family and your wallet from falling victim to this sort of scheme.