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“I lost my wallet and ID. I’m stranded — please wire money.”

“Your grandson is being held in jail. He needs bail money right away.”

Scammers try to trick you into thinking a loved one is in trouble. They call, text, email, or send messages on social media about a supposed emergency with a family member or friend. They ask you to send money immediately. To make their story seem real, they may claim to be an authority figure, like a lawyer or police officer; they may have or guess at facts about your loved one. These imposters may insist that you keep quiet about their demand for money to keep you from checking out their story and identifying them as imposters. But no matter how real or urgent this seems — it’s a scam.

If you get a call or message like this, what to do?

  • Check it out before you act. Look up that friend or family’s phone number yourself. Call them or another family member to see what’s happening. Even if the person who contacted you told you not to.
  • Don’t pay. Don’t wire money, send a check, overnight a money order, or pay with a gift card or cash reload card. Anyone who demands payment in these ways is always, always, always a scammer. These payment methods are like giving cash — and nearly untraceable, unless you act almost immediately.
  • If you sent money to a family emergency scammer, contact the company you used to send the money (wire transfer service, bank, gift card company, or cash reload card company) and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask to have the transaction reversed, if possible.
  • Report the message or call at

Share this video to help servicemembers and their families avoid family imposter scams.



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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

July 03, 2018
Is Any anyone lost with ID is scammed , i thought and real some cases computer and networking incident cause US Government beneficiary lost ID but all circumstance accurate .
July 03, 2018
Thanks, FTC. Keep up the good work!
July 05, 2018
Great information...Thank you and keep it up!
July 03, 2018
I see a lot of these imposter scams on Facebook. The scammers get control of someone’s Facebook account and then spam everyone on the friends list with emergency requests for money. A friend of mine had both her Facebook and her email stolen and used that way.
July 06, 2018
Thank you!
July 12, 2018

In reply to by felisareciojdll

that is one reason I do not subscribe to facebook!
July 03, 2018
This scam is actually quite old. I remember hearing of it before the internet. Imagination must not be a strong point for the average scammer.
July 03, 2018
Seniors in particular fall for this one. Don't let it happen!
Active Adult A…
July 03, 2018
This has happened to two people I know. The first caller knew that Lindas grandson was backpacking through Europe and where he was supposed to be that day. She was ready to comply, but had the wherewithall to check facebook first. All the info needed for a scam was right there on the screen, and her grandson posted a new status while she was checking his page. He was boarding his next train along with friends. Scam averted. He never should have posted a public thanks for helping finance his trip. Second case was easier. Granma Betty got a similar call that her granddaughter had been arrested in Mexico. She only has one granddaughter, and she happened to be standing right next to her when the call came in.
DDonna Dindia
July 03, 2018
This happened to me on Cinco D Mayo last year. A girl, crying told me she was in jail for drinking and driving after she left her friends house. She had me talk to a lawyer. I called his number and it was identified as a lawyers office. So I was succered into believing.
July 05, 2018

My wife and I were almost scammed for $8000.00 for bail for our grandson who was attending a wedding and got stopped and tested. Was arrested and needed our help. We were fooled by his voice and gave us a number to call a Public defender which we did and he arranged for cash to be sent fed ex. We paid over $100 for shipping.

Got home called his father and found be had been scammed. We went back to fed ex got the package and $8000 and shipping costs refunded. We are both 79 and I guess easy targets. Thank you Lord. 4

November 15, 2018

In reply to by sassy

This happened to my wife and I on Nov. 17th. A call was received from the U. S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic and a Sgt Charles Johnson told us that our grandson was in country for a wedding. He was a passenger in a car where the driver ran a stoplight and crashed. The person impersonating our grandson called my wife to explain that drugs were found in the car and after both had been drug tested with negative results that if he wanted to make his flight that evening, we would need to send $9,600 cash, so that he could make his court appearance that day instead of having to wait two to three weeks. We were told to split the cash between to sealed envelops and place inside a magazine, and then sealed in a manila envelope. We were to send by Fed Ex to a New York apartment address. We went to Fed Ex and mailed the package overnight ($90). On the way back home we decided to call our grandson who thankfully answered his phone and learned that he was on his way to work in Colorado. I immediately called Fed Ex and asked if the package was still there, which it was, and asked them to pull the package which they did. We went back and got our package and full shipping refund. We are both in our middle 70's and were very thankful that we had an ending the right way. I hope this comment helps educate senior folks who are a target for this type or any scam.
July 04, 2018
We're on the No Call list and have been for years, but it seems as though more and more phone solicitations (most of not all scams) are reaching us. We hang up on them, but they're a nuisance. Is it just us, or is this increase of calls a trend?
July 06, 2018

In reply to by JaniceP

I am having the same problem. It seems, the more I block unwanted calls, the more I receive. Same type of calls, but different numbers. Most coming from New York, D.C., and Atlanta.
July 04, 2018
I wished I had followed my first mind when I first looked up your information on Lottery Scams before I was conjured out of thousands of dollars! I pray that people like these get what's coming to them.
Teddyon't use …
July 04, 2018
Wish I read about this two years and $4000 ago. My savings, pride,and goodwill all shattered. I trust no one. maybe this was the lesson learned.
July 04, 2018
Thank you very much, FTC. Community needs to know more.
July 05, 2018
My 88 year old father was a victim of this scam. A caller with a foreign accent told him his grandson had gone to a Caribbean island over the weekend to attend a wedding and had been jailed for drunk driving. A young man got on the call and pleaded with my father for bail money, plus money to pay a lawyer. They told my father that it was urgent for him to wire $1800 and gave him the routing information. My father drove to his bank and withdrew the money then drove in 5 o'clock traffic to a Western Union location. We called the local police when we learned what had happened and they were so used to this scam that they gave us the phone number to call Western Union to reverse the transaction immediately. We were able to recover all of the money within a few hours. When we asked my father why he didn't let anyone else in the family know about this and have us help him (our first action was to contact said grandson to be sure he was okay), my father said it was because of the sense of urgency from the scammers and how upsetting it was to hear his "grandson" sounding so distraught on the phone. We are so thankful my father returned safely and didn't get in an accident at that dangerous time of night, especially since he was so upset. There is a special place for these criminal scammers who prey on older folks and swindle them out of their savings and it's called PRISON! Spread the word: teach your parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors to never pursue any financial transaction without going over it with family members to ensure it is legitimate. And report anything that appears suspicious - these criminals can't be caught if they aren't reported.
July 05, 2018
This week I have received over 9 phone calls stating I am about to be "taken into custody by the local police" due to "four serious allegations pressed against me." The robo (female voice) call then gives and repeats a phone number to call to avoid arrest. I blocked the first number and just this afternoon received the same call from another number. I notified the no call list. Would love for these frauds to be found and jailed.
Yosemite Sam
July 05, 2018
How do I find out if a company is legitimate from their website? They want to help us recover money we were scammed out of.
FTC Staff
July 06, 2018

In reply to by Yosemite Sam

You can't tell if a company is legitimate by looking at a website.

If someone says they can get your money back, be very careful. They might be scammers who will take your money or personal information.

If you sent money to a scammer by wire transfer by Western Union or MoneyGram, no one can get your money back. It's very very hard to get money back after a scam.

You could call the Attorney General in your state and ask about that company. Use this list to look up your Attorney General.

And report the scam to the FTC at,  so your information will be added to the database that the FTC and law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

Nevaeh K
July 06, 2018
I'm 12 years old and I get beer adds on my computer every 2 minutes,literally!!!I don't want or need beer. Now please stop sending me adds about your beer!!!
July 06, 2018
Thank-you FTC for helping people in need. Please keep up the good work.Scammers need to be reported. Do not give them any money.
July 06, 2018
I got a call - "Hi Grandma..." and I asked "Which Grandson are you?" No I asked what was wrong. He said he had been drinking, hit a tree and was in jail IN CANADA and needed $4K for bail. I said "Hmmm, that is bad, how about if I call your parents and tell them to send you the money, or better yet, I'll call the POLICE and give them the number in Canada on my caller ID and THEY can get you out of jail." He hung up...
July 06, 2018
My late mother-in-law got this call and she just said "Call your folks and get it from them." and hug up.
July 12, 2018
I don't use facebook at all.I find its mostly gossip and scams that is there.I stick to my personal emails and am very happy with what I have.
July 21, 2018
I got a call from a guy with a strong India accent and said he was calling from Apple Customer Service and said my network got hacked and he can help to fix it. It turns out it is a scam. He was calling from India the IP is
July 24, 2018
I received 2 recorded messages on my voicemail from the IRS or U.S. government. I knew this was a scam because they don't make phone calls. They send you a letter thru the mail.
July 27, 2018
How is this possible? I thought the government could only make things worse?
August 08, 2018
My elderly mother received a call from someone purporting to be her grandson, addressing her as "Grandma". Too bad the scammer didn't know that to all of her grandchildren she is "Nana". Never, ever "Grandma". She laughed and hung up.
singer 85
August 25, 2018
I have had this kind of phone call. As i was aware of this kind of scam, I strung the boy? along. Made up questions that I knew they could not answer. For example, how is your wife? Why didn't you call her and get some money? Or, Is your wife still in the hospital? Did she have a boy or girl? And so on. I do have grandchildren, but none of these questions apply to them. Or if a girl? Ask if the divorce has been finalized, etc. If it is a drinking thing, tell them you are tired of bailing them out every time they drink, and they have to suffer through any problems that they created with this ongoing drinking problem. they hang up.
Lost cause lov…
August 28, 2018
I met a man on meey up. App.only his picture then we both got workung alit and never met in person.he works inporting metals.he goes by marc james anyone hear of him. ? Claims has daughter out of state but he was in london then dubia then indonisea.his purchase went up fo yo taxes n tarifs so he needed help. For that.then needed some for hotel n taxi then on way. To. Leave From. Indonisa. Has a. Injury. Accident now in hospitsl im out 20,000$ bucks sbout n now daugjtet wants me to send for his cridsurgery..i vant be stupid twice i said dont have money. Ireally dont. Has anyone heatd from this guy.??
September 27, 2018
has anyone been asked for money from General William Casey?
gwenvaDon't us…
October 08, 2018
a big ad appeared all over my computer stating that a virus was attacking and that I should call 1-888-418-1088. my computer wasn't responding. I called but hung up because i wasn't sure Is this spam? Can they use my phone to steal from me?
October 26, 2018
First I want say how stupid I have been ! Ladies buy into a lot of story’s expecly when it’s a guy telling you what you wNt to hear . Meet someone supposingly on a ship in trouble and gonna lose a life deal 5000 later and nine I tune cards and reading here I figured out Scam . Wow What kind of people do this ? Be careful ladies and others
November 29, 2018
Why bother to report? Mother was scammed, grandparent scam, injured jailed grandson needed bail etc. She sent money via fedex. Called fedex , texted with fedex, multiple calls to them and they promised they would not deliver the package. Five hours later they delivered the package and she lost a lot of money. Called the local police to log complaint, they wouldnt call fedex or work with police in new york to who wanted to set these people up and bag them picking up the package. It happens so often with burner phones and bogus informaton that the police said its a waste of time and resources and they never can find these people. We had a chance this time, and they wouldnt do it. So why bother. No one does anything to help in the moment, we had them and they blew it. Something needs to be done to force interstate cooperation or this will just get worse. Listen up feds.
December 07, 2018
Nathan Kron he lost his wallet with 3 credit cards and $5000 he said he is a Fire fighter contractor his manager sent him to Lagos Nigeria 6 months contract. He lost everything he want me to send him money thru Western Union and buy Amazon card so that he could ear and pay for his people. I didn't believe him i know he is a Red Flag. I blocked him and report.
May 15, 2019

In reply to by angelwings2018

Hey, I think I have something similar going on. Did he send you some selfies two? If I ask for webcam he always said there is something with my phone. I don't think he is the man behind all pictures he sended me. I'm so heart broken because I really felt in love with the man .
February 25, 2019
Call supsedly from granddaughter in jail in Dade Co Florida after DUI and vehicle accident. Requesting funds to pay the victim of the accident before the “judge” will allow her to return home! Granddaughter WAS!!! At home.
May 15, 2019
I'm in the beginning stage of a classic scam. A male claiming to be my son, said he'd had an accident requiring stitches to his mouth accounting for my difficulty understanding him and he put "his lawyer" on. The 'lawyer', with a Brooklyn accent, told me that my son had been in an auto accident having gone through a red light and colliding with another vehicle while on his phone. He had been arrested and charged with reckless driving. The 'lawyer' however, had managed to plea bargain with the court and the victims for a sentence of Community Service and my Son reembursing the vitims the $9,300.00 deductable they were assessed for repair to their rented vehicle. The 'lawyer' is to call me early tomorrow with instructions how and to whom I am to forward the money. Despite instructions to not call anyone in our family because of my Son's embarressment, I called my Son and confirmed what I suspected. He was AOK and I was being scammed. I have since reported the above to the Police and am looking forward to following their suggestion and telling the Scammer to get lost.
B. Bell1955
October 23, 2019
I know a lady live be side me is being scam out lot of money she send him 900 to 1000 a month she think she talking to a white man in the service but she not he from Nigeria name johnny ovenerme or mark Robertson
November 05, 2019
public defender scam . they use 740-746-3105 as the number.
February 17, 2020
I got scammed yesterday in the gift card scam and was on the phone with the person for hours buying them gift cards and reading them numbers so they could supposedly block users on my (2) devices laptop/phone. (855) 938-2815 was the first number and then dropped and switched to other numbers, devious group of people that run this "company" scanning innocents.
Don't use your…
April 26, 2020
My friend said he was in jail in Turkey and hired a lawyer and the lawyer is asking me for $3500 dollars I don’t have it and I have not met my friend