(BPT) - You may have heard about older adults being tricked into sending money to someone they think is a grandchild or other relative in trouble and thought to yourself, "How could anyone fall for that?" But the truth is, today's advanced technology makes it easier than ever for scammers to trick their unsuspecting and well-meaning victims.
To protect yourself, it pays to understand how fraudsters work, what red flags to look for, and how to trust your instincts so you don't end up on the losing end of one of these vicious scams.
How grandparent scams work
Scammers prey on kind-hearted victims by convincing people their grandchild or other relative has had an accident or is in some kind of legal or financial trouble. The scammers then plead for money to get them out of the "jam."
For years, criminals have been able to gather facts and personal information from people's social media accounts to contact their older relatives. Once the criminals contact older relatives via text, email or phone, the criminals can sound very convincingly like a relative in dire trouble.
The A.I. twist
Because of advances in artificial intelligence (A.I.), criminals can now make their pleas for cash sound even more convincing when calling on the phone. According to the Federal Trade Commission, these scammers use A.I. voice cloning software to mimic your relative's voice by pulling the audio from their social media videos.
Unfortunately, scammers often couple this tactic with a "spoofed" phone number that shows up on your caller ID with your relative's name, so it looks like it's really them calling you.
How to spot red flags
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent criminals from stealing from you. The United States Postal Inspection Service® recommends a few simple steps to avoid being taken by this extremely vicious scam.
Watch out for these red flags:
If you've been affected by crime that involves the U.S. Mail®, contact the United States Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455 or report it online at USPIS.gov/report. If you think you've been targeted by a grandparent scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 888-225-5322, or visit ConsumerComplaints.FCC.gov.
Learn more about elder fraud at USPIS.gov.