When you answer the phone, the scammer typically greets you in a familiar way, such as "Hi, Grandpa!" Since you're caught off-guard, you might say something like, "Is that you, Sam?" Once you give the crook a name, he or she will run with it, claiming to be away from home and in need of some emergency funds. The scammer then asks you to send or wire money.
If you receive one of these phone calls, take steps to make sure the caller is who he or she claims to be. Make an incorrect reference to something the family member would know—for example, ask how things are in Buffalo when you know the relative lives in California. If the caller doesn't correct you, you know things aren't right. You also can try contacting the family member directly to find out what's really going on.
Published May 2, 2011