If you got a call from a family member in crisis who needs money, would you stop to think before helping out?

Hundreds of people in Missouri and across the U.S. have recently received phone calls asking for bail money, according a news release sent Monday by the Missouri attorney general's office. In this version of the scam, which often targets elderly and vulnerable citizens, the caller claims to be the recipient's grandchild.

Calls appear to come from "U.S. Government" or "U.S. District Court," and the caller claims to be in jail. The attorney general's office urges anyone who receives a request like this to confirm the caller's identity before sending money. One way is to try and reach the person who the caller claims to be directly. Another is to ask the caller for personal information a stranger wouldn't know, like the name of a pet or a family member's birthday.

This method isn't foolproof, though, because a scammer might already know this information if it is available online.

Scams like this are often referred to as "grandparent scams" because they target the elderly and prey on the fear that a grandchild might be in trouble.

Scam calls can be reported to the Consumer Protection Hotline, 1-800-392-8222, or by using this online form.

  • Education reporter, fall 2019 Studying print and digital editing Reach me at kjl5z8@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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