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Stranger than family

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Have you ever gotten a phone call from someone pretending to be a family member? They might say it is an emergency – maybe somebody is in jail, in the hospital, or being held hostage. What’s common to all of these calls is that they end with the caller asking you to send money. These calls are scams no matter how convincing they sound. 

If you ever get these calls, here are a few things you can do:

  • Hang up and check it out. Contact your family member directly.
  • Never send money to anyone who calls and asks you for it. 
  • Go to and report it.

Watch this video for a look at how these scams play out.


The FTC makes recommendations for people to protect themselves from scams and identity theft. However, they make it difficult for consumers to file complaints or give too much discretion to law enforcement in deciding to report consumer complaints in the Sentinel.

This happened to me. The imposter sounded exactly like my grandson. I know that if a copy picks up a juvenile he is either driven home and the cop speaks to the parents or he is taken to Juvy and parents are contacted. I know he does not drink. At the time he did not have a learner's permit. He was too young.

But when you hear your grandchild is in trouble all reason goes out the window. I did not send money but I told the imposter I would not tell his parents until the evening. When I spoke to my son, he was angry that I had fallen for this imposter's story because there were so many holes in it. I really felt dumb but I saw up close and personal what emotions can do to one's brain.

I once received a Facebook post, supposedly from a friend of one of my husband's nieces, that was an emergency request for funds to help this neice get home from an unnamed place where she was allegedly penniless and unable to find a phone to contact relatives for help. I did not respond, but, I don't know if other family members did. I found it a little strange, as I didn't know the neice, and stranger still because I couldn't believe that she could contact this person and not be able to call her parents or someone else for help.
It's a hard decision to make, when someone calls and asks for assistance, especially if the person says they are your family, but "no" should be a person's initial reply, or a request for more details, not reaching for a wallet. I took the time to think through what I was reading, had I known then that I could have complained to the FTC, I would have.

Thank you for sharing this.

well there was this con artist that hacked the phone from a very far distance stealing service hence the service had to be completed deactivated then they claimed they had an accident hence sending gruesome photos online and then calling ones aging family member with this accident story which after much research almost seemed premeditated as it appeared that they were seeking funds from people overseas hence the Federal Trade Commission send the proper laws in their reports about other companies and the con artist was reported to the Federal Bureau Investigations for telecommunications fraud among other laws that were violated

the phone co. could trace this but they don't want to get involved like AT&T ,they want even block robo calls

Similar to the IRS scammers, these "Hi-GrandMa" scammers seem fairly well informed on where to find applicable targets. As I indicated to the TreasIG, I think its time to run stings to ferret out the scammers' apparent blackmarket sources of target info.

I have been getting day and night harassing phone calls from others who say that they are from IRS and Microsoft phone calls day and night wanting me to spend thousands of dollars.. I am an old woman I do not need this

FTC must work more closely with other Federal Agencies to eliminate Off-Shore [Microsoft] and IRS scams. Technology is available from NSA FBI and others but not being deployed. Off-Shore is a National Security Threat, while IRS scam is an Economic threat to the US government.

We have had several victims in my community, so I advise both to check with the parents (the scammers ask you not to) and to call the person calling by a false name. If they use that name, you know it is a scammer. Interesting twist on this was the known girlfriend of a grandchild called (using his cell phone) and indicated she needed to money to bail out the grandchild. It had to be wired promptly to her, in cash (Western Union). She was trying to scam the grandparents, after she stole his phone and had broken up with him. Be cautious, alert and informed!

The vast majority of scammers call from unknown phone numbers (usually Florida) and do not leave a voice message.

I don't answer unknown calls. If the person has legitimate business with me, they will leave an appropriate message. I also do not place any personal accessible info on social media. Caller ID is one of the best defenses against phone based scammers, along with nomorobo.

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