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Since 2010, there have been more than 40,000 cases of scammers impersonating friends and family trying to get you to send them money in an emergency.

The phone call is usually frantic, with the caller claiming to be your grandchild visiting a foreign country and in trouble. The callers are usually claiming to be in Canada or Mexico and require the funds to be wired to them to bail them out of jail or post bond. Usually he or she will ask you not to say anything to his or her parents to prevent you from calling to confirm the story.

If you fall for the story and send your “grandchild” the much needed money via a wiring company such as Western Union or MoneyGram, there’s a chance you may get another phony call claiming the transfer did not go through and you should resend it. Now, you’ve just doubled your contribution.

Unfortunately, once this transaction goes through, the scammers are usually waiting to cash it immediately knowing there is little that can be done once it’s been cashed. Money transfer services are aware of these scams and train employees to be conscious of them and they have the authority to hold the transfer to confirm it is not a scam.

Here are some tips to avoid becoming a money scam victim:

  • Be suspicious of anyone who calls unexpectedly asking for cash.
  • Verify any supposed emergency, by calling friends and family, before wiring money.
  • Develop a secret code or “password” with family members that can be used to verify a true emergency.
  • Limit personal information, such as vacation plans, shared on social media sites.