September 27th, 2010

Stranded Friend or Relative Scam

“This has happened to every grandparent in my family,” Don Rudolph, our Chief Information Officer, recently told us. “Someone calls them up and says, ‘Granddad, guess who this is?’ That’s how they get the name of a grandchild. Then they say, ‘I’m stranded in London and I lost my wallet. Can you please wire $300 to me? Please don’t tell Mom or Dad!!’”

The old “Stranded Relative” scheme is not a new one, but it has been on the rise lately. The FBI reports that scammers are using phone calls, emails and social networking sites to swindle good-hearted people out of thousands of dollars. The scam seems to be more successful because it conveys a sense of urgency, with scammers often claiming that they have to pay a hotel bill or they’re in jail or a similar emergency.

“In one case,” Don added, “they put a ‘police officer’ on the phone to give them instructions on wiring funds, and the amounts were thousands, not hundreds.”

Anytime someone you don’t know asks you to wire money quickly for any reason this should set off red flags. SMCU members are encouraged to be like Don and inform their loved ones about scams like this one. Members should always be wary letters and phone calls asking for wire transfers or account information.

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