Scammers Pose as Grandchildren to Swindle Grandparents

Grandparents scams swindle seniors; say no to “negative option” scams; beware the “robot” virus: Internet ScamBusters #244

It’s time for another Snippets issue. Today, we’ll cover
three topics:

  • Avoid the grandparents scam: don’t be scammed by phony

  • Say no to “negative option” marketing scams.

  • Keep your computer safe from the “robot” virus.

As always, we also recommend you check out the most popular
articles from our other sites during the past week:

Understanding How Credit Cards And Your Debt-To-Income Ratio Affect
Your Credit
: What you need to know to keep your href=""
target="_blank">debt-to-income ratio in check for good credit.

The Surprising Truth About Identity Theft and Co-Signing: Think hard
before putting yourself at risk of this type of href=""
target="_blank">identity theft by giving friends or
family members personal information.

3 Expert Tips For New eBay Shoppers: Before you log on to eBay follow
these href=""
target="_blank">3 eBay tips to help you do it the right way.

Does Your Pet Really Need Its Rabies Shots? Find out if yearly href=""
target="_blank">rabies shots for your pets are necessary.

Let’s check out today’s Snippets…

Avoid the Grandparents Scam: Don’t Be Scammed By Phony “Grandkids”

Just when you may have thought scammers couldn’t sink any
lower, some have plunged to record depths. Recently, some
scammers have bilked the elderly out of hundreds — or
thousands — of dollars by posing as their “needy” grandchildren.

According to, href=""
target="_blank" rel="nofollow">the grandparents scam usually works like this:

You receive a phone call from someone who greets you with, “Hi


“Do you know who this is?”



Without knowing it, you just made a mistake. Instead of
saying, “No, I don’t know who this is,” you supplied the
scammer with the name of a grandchild. He then proceeds to
impersonate that grandchild.

Your “grandchild” claims he’s gotten into some kind of trouble
— auto accident, overdue rent, minor brush with the law —
and needs money to fix the situation. “Can you please help?
But don’t tell mom. She’d kill me if she found out!”

This may seem like an obvious scam, but it’s fooled plenty of
people — mostly because the scammers are good at what they
do. They choose their targets carefully, tug on the
heartstrings, and keep other family members “out of the loop”
until it’s too late.

One scammer “victimized dozens of seniors and found his
victims by scanning the phone book for old-fashioned sounding
names. One of his victims, an 86-year-old grandmother, even
had to use a walker in order to get to her bank and withdraw
money for him.”

The scammers are cunning — one couple could have sworn the
guy REALLY was their grandson.

Recommendation: There’s one easy way to expose the fraud:
DO NOT fill in any “blanks” for the scammer. For example:

“Do you know who this is?”

“No, I don’t. Who is this?”

“It’s your granddaughter.”

“Really? Which one?”

Most likely, the next sound you hear will be a click, followed
by a dial tone.

That’s the easiest way not to fall for the grandparents scam.

Just Say NO to “Negative Option” Marketing Scams

You may not know the term, but you’re probably familiar with
the tactics of “negative option” marketing.

Let’s say your credit card offers you a free gift, and you
decide to accept. You soon receive the gift, along with an
unwelcome surprise — a credit card statement billing you for
a magazine subscription or travel club membership that you
never ordered or wanted.

But unfortunately, you DID order it!

“Simply put, negative option turns the sales transaction
around,” reports href=""
target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> “Instead of the
merchant having to ‘sell’ you a product or service, it starts
with the assumption that you’ve already bought it. It’s up to
you, the consumer, to contact the merchant and cancel the
order if you don’t want to complete the transaction.”

If you’d read the fine print in the “free gift” offer, you
should have seen that you were also buying the magazine
subscription or travel club membership. Trouble is: most
people don’t read the fine print.

Worse: some otherwise legitimate firms — as well as scammers
— regularly commit fraud by failing to inform consumers about
the nature of the transaction and their right to “opt out,”
i.e., “take the negative option.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s href=""
target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Pre-notification Negative Option Rule, companies
must “give you information
about their plans, clearly and conspicuously, in any
promotional materials that consumers can use to enroll. If
the sales presentation for a plan is made orally, say on the
phone, the terms and conditions still must be disclosed
clearly and conspicuously during the presentation.”

“Telemarketers need to be sure that consumers agree to be
charged, and what account will be charged — even if they have
an account number from another transaction,” Howard Beals of
the FTC told

“If you charge consumers without their permission, we’ll
charge you with committing a fraud,” he added.

Because many negative option marketers already have your
credit card info from a previous transaction — the one you
WANTED to make, it’s easy to get ripped off.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of this fraud, take the
following steps:

  1. Call your credit card issuer, and report the charge as

  2. File a complaint with the FTC by target="_blank" rel="nofollow">visiting their website or
    calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

  3. Visit the website of your state’s attorney general’s office
    to learn what they can do. In at least one state, Michigan,
    negative option contracts are illegal.

Finally, be wary of signing up for free gifts, whether online
or at your local retailer. And if you do, PLEASE take time to
read the fine print.

Beware the “Robot” Virus

In issue #232 of ScamBusters on fake antivirus software, we
reported that scammers sometimes use pop-ups to convince
computer users that their systems are infected with a virus.
By doing so, they hope to con people into downloading REAL
viruses or buying rogue “security” software.

Recently, we learned of another twist on this scam.

In the past few weeks, potential victims began receiving
emails such as the following:

— Begin Fake Virus Alert —

Subject: Warning!

Dear Customer,

Our robot has detected an abnormal activity from your IP
adress on sending e-mails. Probably it is connected with the
last epidemic of a worm which does not have official patches
at the moment.

We recommend you to install this patch to remove worm files
and stop email sending, otherwise your account will be

Customer Support Center

— End Fake Virus Alert —

In reality, this poorly-worded email claiming to be from your
Internet Service Provider (ISP), is actually directing you to
download a Trojan.

According to target="_blank" rel="nofollow">, the “Robot” virus (W32/Nuwar@MM) will
— among other things — “terminate applications based on
window name. Applications using the following text in their
window name will be terminated within a few seconds of launch:
mcafee, taskmgr, hijack, f-pro, lockdown, msconfig, firewall,” etc.

Although the virus was first detected in November 2006, and
has been given a variety of names by different security
vendors, this particular email is new.

If you think there is a chance that an email like this is
legitimate, your best prevention is to contact your actual ISP
to determine if they really sent such an email. Chances are
excellent that they didn’t.

And as always, NEVER download anything from the Internet, or
click on a link in an email, unless you’re positive about the

Finally, if you’ve missed any of our recent issues, you can
stay up-to-date and avoid Internet scams by visiting the href="">ScamBusters
back issues.

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.