It's called a "grandparent scam" because it often targets older Americans. The caller will bait the victim by saying, "Grandma, it's your favorite grandson" or something similar. The scammer will then tell the victim he is in trouble and needs money.
"The first thing they do is get you into a state of panic and fear," said Monica Vaca from the Bureau of Consumer Protection. "They don't want you to be thinking very carefully. They'll convince you that your relative or parent is in trouble and you can help them by sending money."
In 2015 alone, the FTC received more than 10,000 complaints of similar scams. How many went unreported?
If you ever get a call from or about a grandchild or any other relative in danger or trouble, and the immediate request is for cash, you need to pause, calm yourself, say you will have to consult another family member first, and hang up. Then check. If the emergency is by any chance real, you can still respond appropriately. If it's not-and the odds point to that-congratulate yourself. You just avoided being on next year's FTC list of those victimized by imposters.
The FTC is also reminding people it's still happening. Don't fall for it and tell the older people in your life not to fall for it either. If you've received a call like this, be sure to report it to the FTC.