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Arrest made in ‘grandparent’ scam, Kingston Police say scam still active

Photo by Nicole De Khors.

Kingston Police, with assistance from the Toronto Police Service, arrested a 27-year-old individual from Toronto on Monday, May 9, 2022, in relation to an on-going telephone scam. The individual was charged with one count of attempted fraud over $5,000.

Kingston Police are warning the public about an on-going telephone scam commonly known as a “grandparent” or “emergency” scam. Police said they have received an increase in reports regarding this scam. This type of scam generally targets senior citizens by contacting them via telephone and informing them a member of their family, often a child or grandchild has been arrested, often following a supposed car accident.

Earlier this month, the Ontario Provincial Police also issued a public warning after two people were defrauded almost $10,000 each in the Lennox and Addington area.

According to a release from Kingston Police, usually the initial caller pretends to be the target’s grandchild and uses generic terms such as “Papa” or “Grandma”. In recent occurrences, they claim to have a cold or COVID as a way of explaining the change in the sound of their voice. They will sometimes ask that their parents not be called as they are embarrassed about the situation, police said.

Reportedly, the caller will then pass the call on to another person purporting to be the grandchild’s lawyer. This “lawyer” will then claim that cash needs to be sent to get the grandchild released on bail. They will claim that an exorbitant sum is required for bail – such as $8,000 to $9,000. Police said that this is far more than what a surety is normally held liable for by the courts, which is usually in the range of $500 to $1,000.

In recent occurrences, the “lawyer” claims that they will send a “bailiff” to pick up the money once the target has withdrawn the cash from their bank. According to the release, a legitimate courier company is then contacted by the suspect and hired to pick up a parcel from the victim, who has been instructed to place the cash in a shoebox. Police said the courier then unknowingly facilitates the scam by transporting the money to a different location, where it is retrieved by someone involved in the scam.

Police remind the public that cash is never requested for bail. Never send money by courier, and never send money to someone you do not know and trust. Protect yourself by reviewing the following guidelines provided by Kingston Police:

  • Verify the caller’s identity by asking questions that someone else is unlikely to be able to answer, for example the name of the family’s first pet.
  • Tell the caller you will call them right back, then call your grandchild’s usual phone number to verify the story.
  • If your grandchild can’t be reached, contact a family member or friend to check out the story. Remember, scammers will plead with you to keep the emergency a secret so you won’t confirm the story.
  • If you speak to someone who claims to be a police officer, call the relevant law enforcement agency to verify the person’s identity and any information they’ve given you.
  • Don’t trust caller ID or answer calls from unknown numbers. If you recognize the caller ID but the call seems suspicious, hang up the phone.
  • Don’t give out your personal information unless you are certain the person and reason is legitimate.  
  • Don’t send cash, wire money, or provide numbers from gift cards. Scammers might pressure you to use those methods since they are difficult to trace.
  • Be cautious about what you are sharing on social media. Consider only connecting with people you know and check your privacy settings for all your social media and online accounts.
  • Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in unsolicited emails. Be cautious even with an email that looks familiar; it could be fake. Instead, delete the email if it looks unfamiliar and block the sender.
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