DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A recent survey from MoneyGram (NASDAQ: MGI), a leading global money transfer company, revealed that nearly one-third of consumers aged 18-49 post details about their vacations on social media before or during their trip. Sharing summer travel plans can serve as an invitation for criminals to target family members with the “relative in need scam,” warns MoneyGram.
Also known as “family scams,” this criminal act typically targets elderly family and friends of individuals traveling on vacation, alerting them of an “emergency situation” and asking for immediate financial aid, sent through a money transfer, to help solve a crisis. Scammers use the phone or email to mask their identity and impersonate emergency workers, attorneys, or even family members themselves, attempting to trick the victims into sending money.
According to MoneyGram, victims of family scams lost an average of $1,551 each time money was sent to a scammer – with a total of more than $8.5 million in attempted transactions during summer 2012. Fraudsters instruct victims to use wire transfers as part of the scam, because once the relative sends the money, there is no way to get it back.
“Scammers prey on the elderly by trying to confuse them with late-night phone calls or emails sent from accounts hijacked from their family members. The threat of an emergency often pushes victims to act quickly without thinking about the situation,” said Kim Garner, senior vice president of global security and investigations for MoneyGram. “When individuals post details or photos about their vacations on social media sites, they’re giving scammers the information they need to commit the crime.”
Garner noted that respondents were generally unaware of the potential significance of posting vacation details on social media, with fewer than 12 percent identifying family scams as their primary concern. The MoneyGram research, conducted by GfK Roper, also found that nearly two-thirds of survey respondents believe the biggest threats of posting vacation information on social media are for criminals to break into their home and steal property (35 percent), or commit identity theft by obtaining credit card information (28 percent).
Garner said the safest way to respond to a frantic phone call is to simply hang up and call your relative directly to verify the situation, or verify the identity of the person on the other end of the line or email by asking questions with answers that only true friends or family members would know. These steps often reveal the attempted fraud, preventing any further emotional distress or monetary losses.
“The safest form of prevention is to avoid social media completely, at least until after your vacation,” said Garner. “Wait until you get home to share your photos – or you may end up sharing your relative’s hard-earned money with a criminal.”
MoneyGram advises consumers to keep their hard-earned dollars in their own pockets by following the three Rs – recognize, react and report.
- Recognize: Savvy consumers should look for red flags when someone asks them to send money through a wire service or money order, because scammers often request these methods knowing that once the money is sent, it cannot be retrieved.
- React: When they identify a scam, consumers should immediately put an end to any transaction or conversation – hang up the phone, delete the email, or end the back-and-forth messaging.
- Report: Report the suspected scam to the local police, and file reports with the Federal Trade Commission, National Consumers League, and Internet Crime Complaint Center (if the suspected fraud was online).
Consumers should call 1-800-MONEYGRAM (800-666-3947) if they believe MoneyGram was used to wire money as a result of a scam. Since mid-2010, MoneyGram has prevented millions of dollars in suspected fraud activity, put those dollars back in the pockets of consumers, and kept the funds out of the hands of scammers.
As part of the company’s ongoing efforts to protect consumers from fraud, MoneyGram recently launched an enhanced version of its fraud prevention website – moneygrampreventfraud.com in English or moneygramprevenciondefraude.com in Spanish – where consumers can arm themselves with information to prevent monetary losses.
About MoneyGram International
MoneyGram International, a leading money transfer company, enables consumers who are not fully served by traditional financial institutions to meet their financial needs. MoneyGram offers bill payment services in the United States and Canada and money transfer services worldwide through a global network of more than 321,000 agent locations – including retailers, international post offices and financial institutions – in 198 countries and territories. To learn more about money transfer or bill payment at an agent location or online, please visit moneygram.com or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.