There are a lot of scams out there that target families, and it can be hard to know what to look for. Here are some common questions about family emergency scams, and how you can protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming a victim.
What is a family emergency scam?
A family emergency scam is when someone contacts you pretending to be a family member or friend in need of money. They may say they are stranded somewhere, were in an accident or face a medical emergency. They will ask you to send them money immediately, often through gift cards or a money transfer service.
How can I spot a family emergency scam?
There are some red flags that can help you spot a family emergency scam. Be suspicious if the person contacting you:
- Asks you to keep the request for money a secret
- Asks you to wire them money immediately
- Is unable to provide specific details about their supposed emergenc
- Has a story that doesn’t make sense or changes over time
- Asks you to pay with a gift card, prepaid debit card or money transfer service
- Pressures you for money before you have had a chance to verify their story
What should I do if I think I’m being scammed?
If you think you’re being scammed, your first instinct may be to send money right away. But resist the urge. Take a step back and try to verify the story. If you can’t reach the supposed emergency contact by phone, try another method of communication like social media or email. You may also want to check with other family members or friends to see if they have heard from the person in question.
Once you have verified the story, you can decide whether or not to send money. If you do send money, use a credit card so you can dispute the charges if it turns out to be a scam. And never wire money to someone you don’t know.
What should I do if I’ve been scammed?
Follow these immediate actions:
- File a police report. Many agencies have departments dedicated to cybercrime. They will also be able to refer you to other agencies who can provide assistance.
- Contact your bank or credit card company to cancel any payments you’ve made and dispute any charges.
- If you have sent money through gift cards or a money transfer service, contact the company right away to try to reverse the transaction.
How can I report a family emergency scam?
Report it to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 will review your report and refer it to the appropriate federal, state, local and international agencies if necessary.
How can I protect myself from family emergency scams?
The best way to protect yourself from family emergency scams is to be aware of them and to know what to look for. Be suspicious of any unsolicited requests for money, especially if they come from someone you don’t know well or haven’t heard from in a while. If you are unsure about a request, take some time to verify the story before sending any money. Lastly, warn your friends and family about these scams, so they can be on the lookout as well.
To learn more about these types of scams, visit our family emergency scams page.