July 3, 2018
by Carol Kando-Pineda
Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education
“I lost my wallet and ID. I’m stranded — please wire money.”
“Your grandson is being held in jail. He needs bail money right away.”
Scammers try to trick you into thinking a loved one is in trouble. They call, text, email, or send messages on social media about a supposed emergency with a family member or friend. They ask you to send money immediately. To make their story seem real, they may claim to be an authority figure, like a lawyer or police officer; they may have or guess at facts about your loved one. These imposters may insist that you keep quiet about their demand for money to keep you from checking out their story and identifying them as imposters. But no matter how real or urgent this seems — it’s a scam.
If you get a call or message like this, what to do?
Check it out before you act. Look up that friend or family’s phone number yourself. Call them or another family member to see what’s happening. Even if the person who contacted you told you not to.
Don’t pay. Don’t wire money, send a check, overnight a money order, or pay with a gift card or cash reload card. Anyone who demands payment in these ways is always, always, always a scammer. These payment methods are like giving cash — and nearly untraceable, unless you act almost immediately.
If you sent money to a family emergency scammer, contact the company you used to send the money (wire transfer service, bank, gift card company, or cash reload card company) and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask to have the transaction reversed, if possible.
Report the message or call at FTC.gov/complaint.
Share this video to help servicemembers and their families avoid family imposter scams.
Family Emergency Imposter Scams
Imposters claim to be friends or family in distress to trick consumers into wiring money