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Frost the Con Man: Avoiding family emergency scams


Hello? It’s me — Frosty. Look it’s a long story but without my top hat, I’m melting. Please, I need your help — send money now or I’ll be nothing but a puddle!”

OK, so that’s a silly example and real imposters aren’t funny. But, on the 8th day of Consumer Protection, it’s definitely worth remembering that scammers can be really convincing. And they don’t take a break, even at this time of year. It’s surprisingly easy for a scammer to impersonate someone to snow you. Networking sites make it easier than ever to sleuth out personal and family information. And they play on your emotions. Scammers are banking on your love and concern to outweigh your skepticism.

You might get a call or message supposedly from an out-of-town family member or friend claiming to be in an accident, arrested, or hospitalized. To make their story seem legitimate, they may involve another crook who claims to be an authority figure, like a lawyer or police officer.

What do you do if you get a message like this?

  • Stop – and check it out. Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine. Or reach out to another family member or friend to check out whether what the message claims is true.
  • Don’t wire money — or send a check, money order, or gift card by overnight delivery or courier.


And then tell the Federal Trade Commission:

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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.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

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Uncle George
December 15, 2020
Don't answer calls from numbers you do not recognize. Do not respond to texts from senders you do not recognize. Do not click on links in emails or in texts. Do not return calls to messages left on your voicemail. Report unwanted contact to the proper authorities.
December 16, 2020

In reply to by Uncle George

Also you should block numbers you aren't familiar with.
December 15, 2020
I'm aware of scammers and I don't fall for their stupidity
Ms. Oregon
December 16, 2020

In reply to by Rose

I feel the same way Rose, they are so stupid they keep calling from the same person. I wish other people would wise up. I am 72 years old, I wish other Seniors would not fall for it. Happy holidays and stay safe
January 03, 2021

In reply to by Rose

I don't even answer phone calls. If I don't know the number, I don't answer EVER.
December 15, 2020
Clever lede!
December 15, 2020
They have been preying on my in-laws, an elderly couple and, luckily, they still have their wits about them to ask questions and not get emotionally wrapped up immediately. Horrible people out there among good ones.
December 15, 2020
They've been plaguing my elderly mother - saying they are my son (her grandson). They have a lot of information, and she almost fell for it. The spiel was " Hi, gramma? I was up visiting a friend in Atlanta, and I got arrested. I need $200 for bail, and I don't want to tell mom. Can you send me the money? I'll help you thru it." Fortunately, she doesn't have that kind of money, and called me. These guys are sneaky, and despicable.
December 15, 2020
Now that I've known about scammers for a numbers of years now, I just don't pick up the phone. If they want me, they can leave a message. But I can see how I might not know better if it was the first time. One trick is to attach a photo to your friends and family's numbers, but it doesn't have to be a picture of them, so if the scammer puts their number on the screen and it's not accompanied by a picture of a rose garden, Fenway Park or a print of a famous painting or whatever you attach, it's probably not them.
December 15, 2020
Always call person back on their personal cell phone and home phone or other family member in that location
December 15, 2020
I have had those calls and since I have no children or grandchildren, I have to laugh when I get these calls. I pretend to go along with their scam, and then tell them that I will pray for them and ask if they would like to join me in prayer. Don't get any repeat phone calls. Just maybe my prayers are being heard to change their hearts.
KY Derby Winner
December 15, 2020
Have a family password! If a grandparent gets one of these calls, have them ask for the family password. Then see how fast the scammers hand up!
December 15, 2020
Thank you all for the info hoping people learn from these jerks and spinless people for praying on anyone for money etc.!!
December 15, 2020
I got a call from a guy one time and he said "hello, Gramma? This is your grandson. How are you? I'm sorry I haven't been around in awhile but I'm so busy. How are you? I miss you." I said "Who are you?" He said "Your grandson. pause. "I can't believe you don't recognize my voice. I'm your grandson" I suspected a scam so I again said "Which one? What is your name? Who?" He hung up.
March 23, 2021

In reply to by marcy

I got one of these calls a couple of weeks ago. I rarely answer calls from numbers I don't recognize, but once in a while I do out of curiosity. When I answered, a young-sounding woman said, "Don't you recognize me? I'm your granddaughter." I laughed and said, truthfully, "I don't have any grandchildren." She hung up. I can't believe scammers are cruel enough to be preying on older folk.
December 16, 2020
My now deceased uncle had one scam him out of 1200 dollars once pretending to be a relative.
December 17, 2020
I keep getting 3-4 calls from different numbers everyday. They never leave a message and as soon as I answer they hang up. And I've called back using an old fashioned landline phone the numbers are busy. I don't know what to make of these calls. Any ideas? I'm just curious.
jh2ycDon't use…
February 09, 2021

In reply to by Downunder

when you answer the phone they then sell your number to tele marketers or others as a working number. the same is true when they tell you to push a certain number to stop getting calls from them
December 17, 2020
Overall, we need to enforce STRONGER PRIVACY ACT. Theses companies are selling information to random people and don’t care who they care.
December 17, 2020

In reply to by Harry

I just called customer service at US Cellular and got them to block all text messages coming to my cel phone. I was getting text messages from numbers all over the USA and they always had a link for me to click on and they would not leave me alone even when I asked them to.