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Talk to your loved ones about ‘Grandparent’ phone scams: OPP

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Journal staff

Residents are being advised to talk to their loved ones following a recent spike in the number of ‘Grandparent Scam’ incidents across the region, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said Wednesday.

“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,” noted a news release, in partnership with Elder Abuse Ontario and the Older Adult Centres’ Association of Ontario.

“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.

“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,” the OPP added. “It is vitally important that the incident be reported every time it occurs, to allow police to investigate and prevent others from becoming victims.”

Police will never call requesting bail money for a family member in distress.

Grandparent Scam Prevention Tips/Warning signs:

Talk to your loved ones about this scam and the 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 your emotions by generating a sense of fear.

• Secrecy: The scammer pleads with the victim not to tell anyone.

• Request for Money: Money can be requested by money transfer, or the scammer sends someone to your home to pick up the payment.

Tips on Prevention:

• To avoid becoming a victim, check 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 know a senior or have an elderly family member, please reach out to them and have a conversation on what to do if they get a phone call like this and consider coming up with a code word.

• If you receive a suspicious phone call claiming to be from a family member involved in an emergency, hang up the phone and contact them directly to confirm.

• Remember: legitimate agencies will never pressure you for information over the phone or demand money immediately.

• If you fall victim to a fraud or know someone who has, contact your local police service to report the crime and also report it to the CAFC at 1-888-495-8501 or online on the Fraud Reporting System (FRS), even if a financial loss did not occur.

• It’s estimated that only 5-10% of victims report scams and fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or law enforcement.

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