Many scams revolve around the idea of a family emergency, often a distraught grandchild calling, to build urgency and apply pressure to victims. Frequently, these scams target senior citizens with the fraudster contacting the victim noting they’re a family member or close friend. The scammer may know information about the person they are pretending to be, such as their name or where they live, and this is usually gained through social media sites or hacking email accounts. After making contact, the fraudster will request money through wire, money order, gift cards, reloadable cards, or cryptocurrency, and tell the victim they need the money right away. They frequently use authority figures such as fake police, doctors, or lawyers to create more fear. These scams are meant to play with the victim’s emotions.

If you receive a call about a family emergency:

  • If you feel pressured to send money, hang up.
  • Call or message the family member directly to ensure it is them who made contact.
  • Call someone else in the family to ask someone you trust if the story is true.
  • Be wary of anyone asking you for money, creating urgency, or telling you to keep the call a secret.

If you receive a call that you believe to be a scam, report it to the FTC and to your state attorney general, or if you are in New Hampshire, the NH Department of Justice.