A worrying development has been reported where fraudsters use artificial intelligence to revamp the classic ‘imposter grandchild’ scam with a dark new twist and TNS is here to tell you more.

You may have heard of the scam, which often targets elderly people and involves the caller claiming to be the victim’s grandchild or a close family member. They will typically say they were in a car accident and need to be wired money or they may claim to have been arrested and request funds for bail. We have even heard reports of some scammers pretending that they have been kidnapped to swindle ‘ransom money’ out of their victim.

There are other variations of this scam, but it usually involves an emergency, elderly victim and the fraudster pretending to be their grandchild.

The dark new twist of this classic scam can be seen in new versions where fraudsters are using consumer information and artificial intelligence to build a scenario the victim (such as a grandparent) would believe.

This shocking development has made the scam significantly advanced in terms of the technology it uses, as some have even been able to generate the voice of the victim’s actual grandchild! This makes the scam much more believable, especially under the pressure of a supposed emergency.

So, you’re probably wondering how this works. For example, a scammer may use the consumer information it has sourced to find out their target has a grandchild named Ricky who is currently backpacking around Europe before going to college.

The fraudster may then call the victim’s grandmother and say something like “Hi grandma, it’s Ricky. My wallet was stolen in Paris. Please wire transfer me $2,000 and don’t tell mom and dad because I’ll be in trouble and must come home”, which could be a difficult request for a grandparent to say no to. The scammer will often increase the scare factor by usually involving a police officer or lawyer in their story, who is threatening the grandchild with arrest if they don’t pay. The call may come from an unknown number or it may appear to be a recognizable contact if the scammer is using a fraudulent technique called spoofing.

Unfortunately, TNS has recently seen reports of this scam rising, so it is important to know how to spot this scheme. If a caller is pressuring you to send money, it is very likely a scam and it is best to hang up and report it to law enforcement. If you receive a call like the ‘imposter grandchild’ scam, the best first move is to double check by texting your family members directly for more information, especially the person who is claiming to be on the phone.

It is best practice to never engage with unknown numbers and report phone numbers being used by scammers to your carrier. If you believe you are the victim of a scam, you can report it to your local police, state attorney’s general office and the FTC.

Call-blocking apps, including those powered by TNS Call Guardian®, are also a great resource for reporting and blocking unwanted robocalls. Stay vigilant, share information about scams with others and be sure to check out our monthly Scam of the Month page updates.

John Haraburda is Director of Product Management at TNS with specific responsibility for TNS’ Communications Market solutions.

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