Emergency Scam: Bail money for Son-In-Law
(January 17, 2019)
A scammer called a resident this week claiming to be his son-in-law and asking for money to bail him out of a jail in Seattle. When the resident questioned why the caller’s voice sounded unfamiliar, the scammer said he had been in a crash and spent the night in jail without medical attention for a busted nose. The caller asked the resident to keep the conversation confidential because it would upset his wife.
The victim reported also speaking to a “representative of legal aid" who was attempting to secure $3,000 for bail. Phone numbers for both callers showed a Washington area code on caller ID. The scammers wanted the resident to provide his cell phone number so they could send him a bar code to use to deposit funds into their account at an ATM.
Fortunately, the resident called his daughter to verify the son-in-law’s whereabouts before proceeding with the money transfer and discovered the calls were associated with a scam.
Emergency scams can take various forms whether they involve a jail, a hospital or mugging where a “relative” needs cash to return home. Some tips for avoiding emergency scams:
- Know the signs of a scam. For example, scammers effectively use pressure tactics to compel individuals to act before they have time to analyze info and do their research. They may ask you to wire funds or use prepaid cards to pay. Other signs: https://www.doj.state.or.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/six_signs.pdf
- Ask questions. If someone claims to be a relative, verify their identity by asking only questions known to that person.
- Check it out. Contact family members to confirm the person’s location.
- Do your research. For example, if the caller claims to be in a jail in this country, check the respective law enforcement agency’s jail booking website or call the agency directly.
- Be wary of caller ID. Don’t rely on caller ID to determine if a caller is legitimate. Many scammers “spoof” caller ID so that a fake number or organization appears on the recipient’s phone.
- Be skeptical of messages. Emergency scams can be transacted through hacked email and social media, so don’t assume that messages received from familiar accounts are necessarily legitimate.
- Maintain privacy. Emergency scammers may be able to glean information from social media accounts, so regularly update your privacy settings and restrict access. Additionally they often will use the information provided by the victim during a communication such as names and repeat it during the conversation to establish familiarity.