The FTC is warning people of a new scam that targets the elderly. The “grandparent scam” is exactly what it sounds like — thieves preying on grandparents’ affection and disposable income.

USA Today reports that in 2016, there were more than 400,000 complaints related to the grandparent scam. Those numbers are definitely low, as roughly only 15 percent of all fraud victims bother to file a report. Here’s how the scam works: One of the thieves calls a grandparent pretending to be a loved one. They inform the grandparent that they’re in some sort of dire situation and — guess what? — they need money immediately. The situations vary from scammer to scammer. Sometimes they pretend to be a loved one who has been seriously hurt and needs cash quick. Sometimes they pretend to be a loved one who has been wrongfully arrested and the only way to prevent jail is via a money wire transfer. In all cases, after the “loved one” spins their tale, they hand the phone to a second scammer, who pretends to be an authority figure, like a doctor or a lawyer.

The grandparent scheme is particularly cruel because it preys on people’s’ affection for their family. Thankfully, there are ways to avoid falling for this trap. Never wire transfer money to someone without verifying their identity. Scammers love wire transfers because they act like cash — once they’re exchanged, there’s no paper trail. If you’re unsure the person is who they’re claiming to be, ask them a couple of personal questions. While this isn’t an exact science, the scammer might slip up just enough to give you pause and thus ultimately avoid the fraud. You could also contact other members of the family to verify that the “accident” actually took place. If in the end you’re thinking you’ve been targeted by a scammer, contact the Federal Trade Commission online or by calling 1-888-382-1222. Don’t let the thieves get away with it.

By: Chris O'Shea via SavvyMoney