Police are sounding the alarm as reports of the grandparent scam, or emergency scam, continue to roll in.
The scam sees elderly people contacted by fraudsters claiming the victims’ grandchildren or family members are in legal trouble or have been in an accident.
They claim to be law enforcement officials or lawyers, and sometimes pose as the grandchildren or family members. The victims are told a payment is required to prevent the loved ones from going to jail.
“If the victim agrees to pay the requested amount, suspects will ask the victim to send cash in the mail or through courier services,” OPP stated in a news release.
“This deeply concerning trend has suspects obtaining the victim’s address, and physically attending the residence to collect the funds, posing as a courier or representative of the court.”
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received more than 13,000 reports of the grandparent scam from Ontario residents between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31. Of those, 7,322 were determined to be victims who collectively lost more than $118 million.
Since November 2021, almost 55 people have been arrested in Canada “as mules picking up cash at victim residences,” police noted. Nearly 40 of those arrests were in Ontario.
“In addition to the arrests in Canada, several cases across the United States have also resulted in the arrests of individuals picking up money in person and that have shown connections back to Canada,” the release stated.
Police have provided the following warning signs and tips:
- If you receive a suspicious phone call claiming to be from a family member in an emergency situation, hang up the phone and contact them directly.
- If the caller claims to be a law enforcement official, hang up and call your police directly.
- Listen to that inner voice that is screaming at you: “This doesn’t sound right.”
- Be careful what you post online. Scammers can use details shared on social media platforms and dating sites for targeting purposes. Suspects can easily gather names and details about your loved ones.
- Be suspicious of telephone calls that require you to immediately take action and request bail money for a family member in distress.
- Be careful with caller ID numbers that look familiar. Scammers use technology to disguise the actual number they are calling from (spoof) and make it appear as a trusted phone number.
Police advise those who know elederly people to reach out to them and explain what they should do if they get this kind of a phone call.
Victims of fraud, or those who know of someone who has fallen victim, are urged to call their local police service or contact the CAFC at 1-888-495-8501 or file a report online.