Kingston Police share details on ‘grandparent’ or ’emergency’ scam

Photo by Tima Miroschnichenko.

Just days after the Lennox and Addington (L&A) detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported a local individual nearly taken in by the so-called “grandparent” or “emergency” scam, Kingston Police have issued a warning about the ongoing telephone scam after receiving an increase in reports of the scam.

According to a release from Kingston Police, 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. Sometimes, the caller purports that the arrest occurred following a supposed car accident.

“Usually, the initial caller pretends to be the target’s grandchild and uses generic terms such as ‘Papa’ or ‘Grandma’. In recent years, scammers at times 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,” Kingston Police said.

“They 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. 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 some instances, the caller states they can have the amount lowered as they ‘know the judge.'”

According to the release, in recent occurrences, the “lawyer” claims that they will send a “bailiff” to pick up the money once the target has withdrawn the cash from their bank. 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 shoe box, police noted. 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.

Kingston 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,” police stated.

Protect yourself by reviewing the following guidelines, set out 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 are legitimate. 
  • Don’t send cash, wire money, or provide numbers from gift cards. Scammers might pressure you to use those methods since they are generally more 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.

Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of cybercrime or fraud should report it to Kingston Police by calling 613-549-4660 or by submitting an online report on the Kingston Police website and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s (CAFC) online reporting system or by phone at 1-888-495-8501. Even if you are not a victim, report any attempted scams to the CAFC.

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