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Grandparent scams continue to reap millions of dollars from victims

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) continue to warn people of ‘grandparent or emergency scams’ that target older people and reap millions of dollars from victims.

From January to the end of August this year, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) has received more than 13,293 grandparent or emergency scam reports from Ontario residents – 7,322 of these were classified as victims with total reported losses in excess of $118 million.

The scam has claimed victims in Prince Edward County several times over the past few years – but lately, more awareness about the scams has thwarted their success.

In one scenario, the victim attended the Picton Post Office and started the process to send money, but a postal worker recognized the situation as a possible scam and advised the victim not to complete the transaction.

Last year, an individual at No Frills in Picton was preparing to purchase several gift cards when the store’s co-owner identified the scam.

The grandparent or emergency scam has several iterations, however, generally, suspects will contact seniors or family members claiming their grandchild or family member was in an accident, charged with an offence, or is in legal peril, such as a impaired driving or drug offences or, in some cases, is ill.

Suspects will claim they are law enforcement officials, lawyers and even impersonate the grandchild or family member. They will advise the victim that a payment for bail, legal fees or fine is required immediately 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.

Suspects obtain the victim’s address, and physically attend the residence to collect the funds, posing as a courier or representative of the court.

The CAFC reports that 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 occurred in Ontario.

In addition to the arrests in Canada, several cases across the United States have also resulted in arrests of individuals picking up money in-person and that have shown connections back to Canada.

Warning Signs – How to protect yourself
-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 police directly.
-Listen to that inner voice that says: “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.

If you know an older person, reach out to them and have a conversation on what to do if they get this type of phone call.

If you do 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).

The CAFC collects information on fraud and identity theft Canada wide. Contact the CAFC by phone at 1-888-495-8501 or online by way of the Fraud Reporting System (FRS), even if a financial loss did not occur.

Filed Under: Local News

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