A new scam has been making the rounds recently. The FTC (Federal Trade Commison), the BBB (Better Business Bureau), and various news organizations have reported that scammers are claiming to be debt collectors and getting older Americans to fork over credit card information or wire money to the scammers. Sometimes the collectors claim to be after young people, threatening that if the grandparent doesn’t come through with the cash, the grandchild will be arrested, have their license revoked, or lose their job. Other times, the scammers claim the grandparents are on the hook for the debt and use their fear of losing their credit rating to finagle some easy money out of a frightened victim.

The debt collection angle is new to the grandparent scam, but hardly a new scam in itself. Con artists have been calling with fraudulent debts and fabricated threats for years. But as people have gotten wise to phony debt collection scams, they’ve combined the routine with grandparent scams to make a new scenario that feels very real.

With student loans and credit card debt through the roof, it’s easy to believe a loved one could have all sorts of debt we don’t know about. With the pressure on, it’s challenging to find out if it’s true. But, if you didn’t co-sign a loan, you can’t be held responsible for paying it, no matter what someone tells you over the phone. In fact, it’s illegal for a debt collector to tell you if someone else has a debt at all.

Keep your loved ones safe by educating them about these scams and sharing these “red flags” to look out for.

  • Unsolicited calls: Always be cautious of phone calls you are not expecting.
  • Unknown numbers: Always be cautious of answering calls from unknown numbers.
  • Request for personal information: Do not provide any personal or financial information to callers you don’t know or were not expecting, even if they say they have the information and only need you to confirm it.
  • Urgent or threatening request: No one should feel pressured to make a payment or provide personal information over the phone. Read more about how to spot scams.

What to do if your elderly parent is being scammed?

If you think you might be a potential victim of such a scam, let the FTC know immediately at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/.

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