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We’ve been warning you about scammers asking you to pay with gift cards or by wiring money. Scammers love getting you to pay that way because they can get your money fast and disappear. It’s almost as good as getting you to send cold, hard cash. Which must have occurred to them, too, because some scammers are now going low-tech and asking people to send cash in the mail. Sometimes they even tell people to divide the cash between pages of a magazine.

According to the FTC’s new Data Spotlight, people 70 and older are reporting losing cash to scammers who pretend to be a friend or family member in trouble. (You know the calls: “Grandma, I’m in jail. I need you to send me money for bail.” Or some variation on that theme). Here’s what the FTC is seeing from reports of friend and family scams:

  • People report losing $41 million in the last twelve months, versus $26 million the prior year.
  • One quarter of people 70 and older report paying scammers in cash.
  • People 70 and older who paid in cash report a median loss of $9,000. Compare that to all age groups, who report losing a median of $2,000 so far this year on these types of scams.

So what if you get one of these calls? No matter how alarming it seems, stop and check it out. Get off the phone and call the family member who’s supposed to be in trouble – using a number you know is right. Can’t reach them? Check with another friend or family member. And never, ever send cash by mail. (Or pay with a gift card. Or wire money to someone who demands it.)

And then tell the FTC.

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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.

December 03, 2018
I have had two calls from “Microsoft “ company saying they have a refund to us for paying for Technical support. Their numbers given are 1-844-386-8577. Another also was given. 866-978-8560.
Big Red
December 03, 2018

In reply to by LindaM

Same here! Don't respond ever no matter what and don't open there emails either that's another way for them to place a virus on your computer and than you have to call someone to fix your computer for hundreds or even thousand of dollars just to repair your computer. So all I do is DELETE without opening there emails or answering there calls.
December 03, 2018
Just been hacked and asking for payment in bit coin to stop any future mail of scandoulous nature What do I do ?
Big Red
December 03, 2018

In reply to by Chukb97

It's all a SCAM!!!! Plain and simple, it's the holidays and people needing cash fast so they play these sick and twisted games and con hard working people out of there money even the elderly. DON'T GIVE IN TO THE HYPE!!!!
December 03, 2018

In reply to by Chukb97

Do nothing. You have not been hacked. They got your e-mail address from somewhere and took a wild guess. I got the same kind of e-mail, they claim they have images from my webcam. I don't use a web cam.
December 07, 2018

In reply to by Sparky

I received an email that looks like it is received from my own email address. They said they hacked my router and have all my info. They said they saw I had been going to adult sights and see going to send all my friends pictures (which I don't go to adult sights). They want me to pay 762.00 in bitcoins. Did I really get hacked?
Old Fellow
December 03, 2018
They said my grandson which I do not have was in jail. I said GOOD! They hung up before I could say, "He belongs there."
Old Fellow
December 03, 2018
Confuse them, Say a few phrases in German or French and they hang up quick. I prank them when I have time.
December 03, 2018
I recently received an email message from a person on Linkin telling me about a Mystery Shopper opportunity. He attached a application link to SeeLevel Human Experience. I filled out the application and received a email from the company. I was assigned to purchase 2 gift cards from Apple Store and fill out a shopping survey assessment. One for $1300 and one for $1350. I was stupid enough to follow their directions and send a picture of the cards for proof of purchase. I am now finding out that the checks that were sent are fraudulent and I can be out of $2650.00. Terrible time to fall for a scam!!!
December 04, 2018
I've been reading FTC scam articles for years, but notice you have nothing on Twitter scams, which are a bit different. I've been active on Twitter for 6 months, and had some serious scammers after me. A guy posing as a gal in TN (he slipped up and called me "Dear") said the ITunes cards were all sold out and she was board with her phone, and could I help her buy a $50 card so she could download some music. 407-602-8375 A guy from a country half way across the world told me his daughter's birthday was "today" and wanted me to help him send money to her The other scheme he tried on me was to give me an email address of a supposed business for me to write to, to have this guy's luggage sent to my house that had all sorts of valuable in it. He claimed there was zero risk in this for me. Red flags here are: disclosure of my email address and my home address. I already have my city and state posted on Twitter, which makes me a bigger target.
December 04, 2018
Any time a call comes on my phone if not familiar with number or have not order any item or called myself it get delete and report to "Do not Call Registry". Please stay alert and not answer these calls and they will stop. No conversation and they will stop. I do not have a problem telling them I will report them.
December 05, 2018
I have unfortunately learned the hard way, don’t ever buy Google Play cards or any gift cards for a company. Real companies don’t ask you to do this!
December 05, 2018
watch out for emails from SSA saying want you to go to their site and log into your account to make sure your account is up to date .They want your personal info stating they won't send any forms to you any more to save paper work.I got an email and I deleted it knowing I can get my info I need it right from a phone call to SS.Or just wait for my bank statement and check what I am getting from ssa in the new year.I waited a few days and I received my ss statement right from SSA as usual so did a lot of others did that I know here.
Fat 'n Sassy
December 06, 2018
I received a FB Message from what I thought was a family member telling me that my name was on a list to receive funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The message said she had received hers and gave me an agent's phone number to contact. 567-200-0224. I did and the reply was that I was eligible to receive funds and gave me info to write down and keep safe. Then was told I needed to send either $500 in cash via UPS or send 5 iTunes cards of $100 each, sent separately, and the address would be provided once I have sent them a picture either of the funds or the gift card. I gave address, age, etc. which are public knowledge. Do I just delete this whole thing because I'm not sending anybody money or does anyone want this conversation in order to investigate? Am I or my family in danger?
FTC Staff
December 06, 2018

In reply to by Fat 'n Sassy

You could delete the message. You may want to contact the person whose name was used for the scam message. Their email account and address book may have been taken over to send out the scam messages. You can help people by talking about this - a lot of people get these scammy messages and some people get tricked into sending money.

April 22, 2019

In reply to by FTC Staff

I had something similar happen to me. They sent a message through a friend of mines facebook messenger and told me they had a winnings of $75,000 and my name was on the list and that she had already received her money through UPS and the money was real, so he gave me a number to text said I had to pay IRS taxes and UPS. I was stupid and sent the money through an amazon card. I lost $1000. They kept asking for money for something. I finally called my friend and she said what are you talking about, she said that account got hacked a long time ago.
December 06, 2018
got a call saying they were from Chase Bank representing PCH and that I had won a very large amount of money. That Brinks would be coming by my house with the check and an additional amount of cash, This is a scam. I checked it out on line at PCH site. They never contact their winners that way, beside the fact that I did not enter their sweepstakes.
December 08, 2018
Got a call saying that the government wanted to give me $9,000. I got randomly picked for paying bills on time and not getting in trouble with the law in the past 6 months. I knew it was a scam with there transaction department wanted me to purchase a Google play card as a Grant activation card to but the money on. The number that called me is 2028575695. The transaction department number is 3152888154.
December 08, 2018
Got a call saying that the government wanted to give me $9,000. I got randomly picked for paying bills on time and not getting in trouble with the law in the past 6 months. I knew it was a scam with there transaction department wanted me to purchase a Google play card as a Grant activation card to but the money on. The number that called me is 2028575695. The transaction department number is 3152888154.
89 Plus
December 09, 2018
Just got scammed out of $600.00. Thought I was getting a message from a friend on Messenger. When asked for more money I called my friend and was informed that she had been hacked. Scammers using phone number 919-446-5124.
use common sense
December 09, 2018
NEVER under any circumstances answer your phone to numbers you do not know or open emails from addressees you do not know. Set your email to show the first 3 lines of the message and if you have no idea what the message is about at that point...delete it. All reputable companies (banks, IRS, Social Security, and etc) will contact you through the mail. Do not let your curiosity get the best of you thinking a call or email message might be serious. Scammers are getting better at coming up with ways to get your hard earned money. DO NOT give money to ANY source before undoubtly knowing you are NOT being scammed. My mother was scammed for at least 3 years for over $160,000 because they convinced her she would receive $26 million after she paid the upfront taxes. They posed as the IRS. My mother worked as a tax consultant for over 20 years and she knew very well the IRS never contacts you via a phone call. She was in her late 80s and they still got her. They can get to any of us if we don't watch out. If you receive a phone call from a number you do not know and they are legit in needing to talk to you, the person/company will leave a bona-fide message. You can always contact the person/agency/company to verify legitimacy.
December 15, 2018
i think theres a new scam with walmart gift cards..i have been told to take pictures front and back of the gift card and send it to the person posing as an online girl from British UK. she says there is no banks there and need cards to make transactions..i bought the card but havent given her anything.. i found her information on a dating is there anything about this being a scam?
Scammed Too
December 21, 2018
I got scammed by a person who said I would receive $50,000. He sent me a picture of a certificate with my name on it. He also sent pic of an FBI badge with a number and said he was working with the FBI. I was asked to sent various amounts of money to pay for different kinds of fees - always wire transfers and gift cards. They kept telling me the money was coming soon. Then they switched to a different person who was texting me, claiming it was a woman but also offering me the $50,000. I finally realized they were not going to send me any money. the numbers are 325 776-4241 and 325 261-3097. if you
February 12, 2019
what i kind of think it is really wrong because i have personal never gotten scammed like this but it is a scam because why would Walmart if giving a gift card away ask for a picture when ever the person that is posing form the UK is just in general trying to steal you identity and that pretty all i really have to say about the person trying to scam this person that poses form the U.K.
February 15, 2019
i received a scam sms on my cell phone that i am the BLP1000,000 fund from national lottery in britain , they sent me emails and told for claiming it must travel to istanbul , i did , at multy time they got money for office , registrtion of origin , that totally they fooled me about $100000 and i lost my money , i need your helpness
March 04, 2019
Phone number 860-436-7134 calls and says your power with PSEG will be turned off if you don't pay in 45 minutes and leaves phone number 800-241-8178 to call back. They have a recording that sounds like PSEG and acts like it but they ask you to go to a local Rite Aid or Walgreens to wire them money. SCAM. Reported to police and PSEG. These guys need to be caught.
March 05, 2019
I responded to a Mystery Shopper email and received a $950 money order. I am to cash it and take the money to buy Ebay/Amazon/Google play/steam wallet gift card. I have instructions to take pics of the cards and numbers on back to show proof I purchased them. Is this the same scam as being sent a cashier's check? What should I do with the letter and money order as I have not filled out anything? Thank You!
March 30, 2019
Hi there,thanks for this info and I read all the comment to all the scammers!!yes Bill and Melinda Gates they email me and they said I have to recieve a money that I won it..they give me a MTCN NO. Then I can claim that money I won but before can claim that money I’ll send it the shipping pay first before they release the money from goverment..
April 06, 2019
I am an 85 year old woman that was scammed my making a friend on facebook. I believed he was a friend and he talked a nice game. He said he was in trouble and needed money. He also said he would invest my money to make me more. Over a period of about six month I sent him 10,000. he wanted my Discover Card to give me my money back.I didn't give it to him. The money was sent by Western Union., Amazon Cards and Post Office. I'm just not sure what to do..
Scam Buster
September 11, 2019
I have an actual Romance scammers real address and phone number, what can I do ? I told them I would work with them so they would TRUST me ...