On the weekend, the Lennox and Addington (L&A) Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported that they have responded to multiple reports of the “grandparent” or “emergency” scam over the past week. This scam, in which scammers target seniors by playing upon their emotions and fear of a grandchild being hurt or in trouble, has seen increased instances over the past two years, with the most recent rash of reported occurrences in the spring and summer of 2022.
“In the typical ’emergency’ scam, the victim will receive a frantic phone call from someone claiming to be a grandchild or loved one,” the OPP said in a media release dated Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. “The caller will explain that they are involved in some sort of mishap like a car accident or are having trouble returning from a foreign country and need money right away. The scammer will often insist that the victim does not tell anyone. In some cases, someone pretending to be a lawyer or police officer may also be part of the phone call.”
According to police, the victim may be told to withdraw a sum of money and leave it in a mailbox, on a doorstep, send the money in the mail or even meet up with a person pretending to be the lawyer.
“Be careful what you post online,” OPP continued. “Scammers can use details shared on social media platforms and dating sites. They can search your online accounts to find real names, real interests, real phone numbers and when you are going to be home or away.”
In the release, the OPP shared some warning signs:
- Urgency – The scammer always makes the request sound very urgent, which may cause the victim not to verify the story.
- Fear – The scammer plays on the victim’s emotions by generating a sense of fear. For instance, they may say, “I am scared and I need help from you.”
- Secrecy – The scammer pleads with the victim not to tell anyone about the situation, such as, “Please don’t tell Dad, he will be so mad.”
- Request for Money – Money can be requested by money transfer or, in some cases, the scammer sends someone to your home to pick up the payment.
To avoid becoming a victim, the OPP recommends checking with another family member or trusted friend to verify the information before giving money or providing credit card information by phone or e-mail.
If you or someone you know may have been the victim of an “emergency” scam, contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). You can also report the information to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.