Fifteen keystrokes in a search browser gave all the information needed to turn Jack Samuelson’s world upside-down for a day.
The 76-year-old Samuelson said his day started with a frantic phone call from his granddaughter, who spoke rapidly and panic-stricken as she describe a series of circumstances that led to her arrest in the Dominican Republic.
“She said it was going to be six to eight weeks before she appeared in court,” Jack said. “And then, this man took the phone from her and explained that she could make an appearance earlier if they received $2,879 in U.S. dollars.”
He was told to keep it a secret and send the money. When Jack protested, the man hanged up the phone.
“It was the worst day of my life,” said the Boise resident. “It drove me crazy all day long, worrying about her.”
Perplexed, Jack talked to neighbors, called relatives and family, and eventually discovered that his granddaughter was safe. He put it aside, but remained puzzled over how the con artists knew so much about him and his grandchild.
Poring over social media sites and conducting basic Internet searches are arming scammers with more information than ever before as they become more and more efficient in fleecing thousands of dollars from the elderly.
With personal information readily accessible, the cons learn about where the grandchildren go to school, vacation, friends’ names and even their favorite foods. They then search the Internet and begin searching for possible grandparent contact information and launch their deception.
Dale Dixon, CEO, BBB serving the Snake River Region, says scammers are armed with such detailed information that they can answer most questions a grandparent can put out to them.
“We’ve gotten to most of the grandparents about this scam, but we need the younger generation to safeguard their information,” he says. “Protect your identity, if not for you, for your grandparents.”
Dixon suggests younger people review their privacy settings on all social media sites. Use different log ins and passwords. If you don’t know how to set privacy settings, check with a friend or confidant. Friends can have full view, but you must encourage them to shut down the scam artists as well.
Other tips include:
• Avoid social networking Web site quizzes that open the door on your personal info to the quiz developers.
• Use strong passwords with numbers, letters and symbols and change them often. Avoid using the same password for social, personal and financial websites. Secure all passwords off of your computer.
• Use firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware software and regularly, and allow automatic updates.
• Don’t accept unknown friend requests.
• Turn on the same basic security features for your mobile device, different password, firewall and anti-virus.
• Don’t click on links on social web sites.
• Pictures can contain virus, Trojan horse and worm.
• Log out of any social-network site when not in use.