York Regional Police are warning of an increase in grandparent scams after they received reports of 13 incidents in the past week.
Victims have been swindled out of more than $50,000 since August 4, the force’s financial crimes unit said in a news release on Thursday. Criminals are targeting elderly and vulnerable people, police added.
Many reports in the past week of these fraud schemes, also known as emergency scams, have been from residents of Newmarket and Aurora, police said.
They said the number of scams has risen in 2022, compared to 2021. The total reported loss for victims has been slightly under $1 million since 2019. Investigators said there may be more victims who haven’t yet reported the losses to police.
“Emergency scams are often called grandparent scams because fraudsters will prey on a grandparent’s bond with their grandchild in an effort to defraud them,” police said in the release.
According to police, criminals call an elderly person while posing as their grandchild in distress. Then they ask for money to get them out of trouble.
Sometimes, a second person will call under the guise of being a government official, police officer or lawyer, and that person provides instructions on how the elderly person can deliver the money.
These scams can be repeated over days, weeks and months as the criminals win the trust of their victims, police said.
Police offered the following tips to avoid being a victim:
- Never offer personal or financial information to the caller.
- Call the grandchild or family member in question at a phone number you recognize as their own.
- Ask the caller personal questions that only your grandchild could answer but an imposter could not.
- Verify the story or information with family first.
- If the caller identifies as a government official, press them for details and verify the information.
- Never send money to someone you don’t know
- Take some time to ask yourself: “Could this be a scam?” and “Does it make sense?”
“We encourage citizens to share fraud prevention tips with friends and family, especially seniors or newcomers to Canada, who are frequently the targeted victims,” police said.
Officers are also asking employees at financial institutions and courier services to help identify people who may have been targeted by a grandparent scam and to call police if something appears unusual and suspicious.
Victims who have targeted by these scams and have lost money are urged to contact the the financial crimes unit, either online or by calling 1-866-876-5423 ext. 6627.