The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, and the Older Adult Centres’ Association of Ontario are urging Ontarians to talk to their loved ones following a recent spike in the number of ‘Grandparent Scam’ incidents across West Region this year and last.
In 2022, the OPP responded to 348 incidents involving emergency scams across Ontario, with many of those complaints originating in West Region detachments such as Lambton, Essex, and Oxford counties. That represents a 222% increase compared to 2021, in which police investigated 108 emergency scam occurrences. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, thieves used the emergency scam to defraud Ontarians of over $5.4 million in 2022.
The typical emergency scam works like this: the victim will receive a frantic phone call from someone claiming to be a grandchild or loved one. The caller will say that the person’s loved one was involved in an emergency, such as a collision, an arrest, legal peril, or illness or injury. The scammer demands the senior provide immediate payment for supposed bail, legal fees, fines, or other amounts ‘owed’ to prevent the family member from going to jail or to get them released from custody. Fraudsters then isolate victims by telling them there is a court-imposed gag order which forbids them from discussing the matter. Scammers tell victims to withdraw cash from their financial institution and hand it over to a courier sent to the victim’s home or have the victim send the money via courier services.
To avoid becoming a victim, police advise you to first check with another family member or trusted friend to verify the information before sending money or providing credit card information by phone or e-mail. It is vitally important that the incident be reported every time it occurs, to allow police to investigate and prevent others from becoming victims. If you have any information that can help investigators, please contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122. Should you wish to remain anonymous, you may call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or leave an anonymous online message at www.helpsolvecrime.com, where you may be eligible to receive a cash reward of up to $2,000.