Our homes for many are our personal place of safety, they are our private Fortress of Solitude minus the talking head of Marlon Brando. Unfortunately regardless of how many locks we place on our doors, No place of safety is impenetrable. Especially if a scammer knows some of your personal information. They can easily find personal information such as your location, your family and friends, clubs that you belong to, on your social media.
Using this information a scammer could attempt to do the family emergency scam, although it could also be done without knowing such information.
What is the family emergency scam?
A Scammer will call your mobile or home phone number and will attempt to either be a family member (if that information is known) or someone in the position of authority. A usual Family emergency may go like this
Caller: Hi Grandpa, it’s me.
Grandpa: [Name of the grandson]? Is that you?
Caller: Yes, it’s me. [Repeats name Grandpa said.] Grandpa, I’m in trouble, and I need money for bail.
Grandpa: What happened?
Caller: Please don’t tell Mom or Dad. I’ll get in so much trouble.
Grandpa: Where are you?
Caller: Hurry, Grandpa. A lawyer is going to call you. Please help me!
Grandpa then gets a second call from the fake lawyer.
Attorney: This is your grandson’s lawyer. He’s in a lot of trouble. The only way he can get out of jail is if you pay.
Script from the federal trade commission
Keeping yourself safe
The best way to avoid a scammer from finding out your personal information is to update & monitor your privacy settings on social media. Making sure that to the public your personal information, friend list and contact information is set to either only me or friends depending on what the information is.
For example your birthday is something you might want your friends to know which you can set as “friends only” (you can also hide different parts within this, so you can make the Birth day “friends only and the Birth year “Only me” depending on either how much you trust your friends or how kind 2020 was to your grey hairs)
Whereas an address if needed to be on a platform can be made “only me” so even those who are your friends or followers on whatever platform can’t see it.
What to do if you get called by a scammer
If you get called by someone pretending to be a loved one it may not be obvious at first. So resisting the pressure to give money is a good first step. Immediately contact either the person they are impersonating or contact someone else in the family. This way you can clarify and confirm the story as either true or false. Either way if a scammer impersonates someone in a position of power, say for example a police officer, they would not ask for funds over the phone.