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  • Be aware of scammers praying on families of hikers completing the trail

    I just received an email from a family that just got hit with a scam that I wanted to make everyone aware of. Here is a portion of the email.

    I am the father of a thru hiker that just completed the AT this month. Our family just got hit by a scam we believe involves AT hikers that anyone on the trail or planning to be on the trail should be aware of. There is a scam ring on social media watching those who complete the trail, and, if they can determine who their elderly relatives are (also through social media), they attempt to pull off the 'Grandma Scam'. They contact the grandparents posing as the hiker saying they've been in an accident, need money, not to tell their parents - and elderly grandparents fall for it, and send money to the scammers using numbers from untraceable Target or similar gift or bank cards - typically around $2,000-$4,000 worth. It is a masterful scam- they know their families and know their grand kid just completed the trail and are on the way back home etc. The scammers string of phone numbers are landlines from NY State. We think all hikers (current and future) should alert their families of this scam.
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. Hot Flash's Avatar
      Hot Flash -
      Preying. Kind of a big difference
    1. Slow Trek's Avatar
      Slow Trek -
      Another good reason to avoid Facebook.
    1. Professor Paul's Avatar
      Professor Paul -
      Some people really suck.
    1. Curious G's Avatar
      Curious G -
      I'm curious about who the source of this info is. Every hiker ever is supposed to contact their entire families and scare them more about trail life because an anonymous poster allegedly got an e-mail? Anybody else seen proof of this? Know who this poster is? Heard of this scam? Let's just say for the sake of argument that the real hoax is this post and a real live kid needs help out there but gets jammed up because of a booger bear story.
    1. Francis Sawyer's Avatar
      Francis Sawyer -
      When you post all of your comings and goings in a public forum you become easy pickins.
    1. nc_mike's Avatar
      nc_mike -
      Quote Originally Posted by Curious G View Post
      I'm curious about who the source of this info is. Every hiker ever is supposed to contact their entire families and scare them more about trail life because an anonymous poster allegedly got an e-mail? Anybody else seen proof of this? Know who this poster is? Heard of this scam? Let's just say for the sake of argument that the real hoax is this post and a real live kid needs help out there but gets jammed up because of a booger bear story.
      I am the source; this is legit. I am sorry I could not directly post and respond sooner; I can understand you being cynical. When our family was scammed I registered on this site but could not post until the admin helped resolve it. Instead, the site admin posted for me as I felt time was of the essence. My child completed the AT from Georgia to Maine in early Sept. Likely with a series of shared social posts on FB, Pintrest, and related channels, the scammers could figure out timing and relationships. They took advantage of an elderly family member, but luckily, we could stem most, but not all of the losses. Just be careful; The scammers likely figured out that those coming off the trail are easy pickin's with not having consistent communications and needing to travel. There were many more clues picked up from the police that the scammers were looking for AT hikers. Watch what is posted, and what is shared. You don't have to contact your entire family, but based on our experience I would suggest making sire older relatives be fully informed.

      Take it for what itís worth; I was compelled to share and inform as best I could. When your child is on the trail, there is a sense that all the hikers are your family. I am sure many here can relate.

    1. Sarcasm the elf's Avatar
      Sarcasm the elf -
      I've been the recipient of this type of scam attempt via email in the past involving friends who were traveling abroad. It worked almost identically to what was described above, was very well planned, and it was clear that the scammers were in possession of a certain amount of personal information from the marked friend. Fortunately I was skeptical enough not to fall for it, but I can certainly see how more trusting people may not be so lucky.
    1. HooKooDooKu's Avatar
      HooKooDooKu -
      It sounds like a legitimate spin-off on the general grand parents scam...
      A scammer contacts an older person, potentially by phone, text, or even facebook. They then convince the mark that they are one of their grand kids in some sort of trouble and need money for bail, to pay a fine, or travel expenses.

      I've personally known someone who has fallen for this scam by a scammer that was good enough to simply make leading statements and convinced the mark they were one of their grand kids when the spammer didn't even know the name of any of the mark's grand kids at the start of the call.

      So any additional information a scammer could use to better sell the scam makes a lot of sense... especially if a scammer can match a grand parent to a grand child to a phone number to a situation (the grand child is known to be out of town).

      So this wouldn't only be an issue at the end of someone's hike... just simply using the knowledge a person is out of town would be enough to help get a mark to fall for the scam.
    1. hitrailer's Avatar
      hitrailer -
      Happened to me while I was on the AT with my son. Got a call that my son was kidnapped in Central America and ransom would be necessary to get him released. We both laughed and played along for awhile. Then I put my son on the line and told the caller to get lost and hung up. This was about ten years ago.
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