L&A OPP advise ‘grandparent scam’ continues to victimize area residents

Photo via L&A OPP.

The seemingly ever-present ‘grandparent scam’ continues to victimize KFL&A residents by inducing panic in the emotional extortion-based scheme.

On Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, the Lennox and Addington (L&A) County Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported on a recent such case in an attempt to raise awareness of the scam and the types of warning signs to look for. The so-called ‘grandparent scam’ earned its nomenclature from the fact the setup of the fraud scheme tends to target grandparents; using a story of a grandchild being in an emergency situation – or even a jail cell – the scammers tell victims that their loved one is in urgent need of money, before laying out a plan for the unsuspecting grandparent to get that money to their in-need family member. The most recent case the OPP are reporting on in L&A County follows that formula, though the familial relations differ.

According to police, just after 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, a 61-year-old woman attended the L&A County OPP detachment to report a possible fraud involving her nephew. The woman told police about a phone call she’d received earlier in the day from an unknown number. The male on the other end of the line told the victim he was her nephew and seemed to be “in distress,” the woman told police. The male caller stated to the victim that he “did not want to spend the night in here,” and that he needed her help.

“She could not verify with confidence that it sounded like her nephew but advised that it could have been,” the OPP described of the incident.

“The male went on to say that he was in jail and needed her assistance. The male stated that they needed to hang up and the call ended.”

The police said that, shortly after the initial incident, the victim received a second phone call from a private number. This caller reported to be Constable John Spring, #76 with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The caller “informed the woman that her nephew had been arrested by the Amherstview OPP for possessing 10 lbs of marijuana,” and requested $7,000 for his bail.

“She further collected a callback number from the male. The male advised that the money must be in cash and to call back once she had it,” the OPP said.

The woman proceeded to attend her bank to withdraw the $7,000 in cash, but the bank “denied her request for this amount of money and she departed back home to inform her husband,” said police.

The OPP said the woman and her husband confirmed with officers that no money was exchanged. Additionally, officers conducted a wellness check on the woman’s nephew, who was located “at home safe and in good health,” according to police.

In response to Kingstonist inquiries, Constable David Yome, Media Relations Officer for the L&A OPP, said that the bank teller denied the victim’s withdrawal request in this case because the bank suspected there was a scam at work based on the victim’s story.

“Thank goodness it was caught there,” Yome said.

“The bank tellers don’t get enough credit for detecting the scams.”

The OPP in L&A County have received 25 calls reporting different types of fraud and scams so far in 2024, the detachment shared.

The following “warning signs” and ways to “protect yourself,” were shared by the L&A OPP:

  • 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 on the number you have in your contact list.
  • If the caller claims to be a law enforcement official and asked you to pay a fine or bail, 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.
  • If you receive an email or text message claiming to be from a friend or loved one asking for money, make the outgoing call to the person by looking up the legitimate phone number you have for them in your contact list.
  • Use unique and strong passwords for all social media and email accounts.

Police said that anyone who suspects they have been the victim of cybercrime or fraud should report it to their local OPP detachment and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) through either the CAFC online reporting system or by phone at 1-888-495-8501. The CAFC website also provides information on recent scams that have been reported to the centre, and tips on how to protect yourself, both online and in person. Police noted that incidents of fraud can be reported to the CAFC even if you are not the victim of the fraud.

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