In a press release issued in October the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) gave some tips on how to protect yourself from scams in which criminals are targeting older persons.
The grandparent or emergency scam has several iterations, however, it generally works as follows: The scammer contacts seniors or family members claiming their grandchild or family member has been charged with an offense, in legal peril, or, in some cases, ill.
The scammer claims they’re law enforcement officials, lawyers and even impersonate the grandchild / family member. They advise the victim a payment for supposed bail, legal fees or fine is required in order for the family member to avoid 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.
This deeply concerning trend has suspects obtaining the victim’s address, and sometimes they even show up in person to the senior’s residence to collect the funds, posing as a courier or representative of the court.
Between Jan. 1, 2022 -Aug. 31 2022, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received over 13,293 grandparent or emergency scam reports from Ontario residents. 7,322 of these reports were classified as victims with reported losses in excess of $118 million.
According to the CAFC, since November 2021, close to 55 individuals have been arrested across Canada as mules picking up cash at victim residences. Nearly 40 of the arrests have occurred in Ontario. The police recommend 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 requiring you to immediately take action and send 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 and make it appear as a trusted phone number.
These scammers can be very persuasive. If you fall victim to a fraud or know someone who has, contact your local police service to report the crime and also report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) by phone at 1-888-495-8501 even if a financial loss did not occur. You can help them catch these scammers.
-Debbie MacDonald Moynes