The EPS said Thursday morning it received four reports of the scam on Tuesday and Wednesday. In an update later Thursday afternoon, Staff Sgt. Ashley Emerson said police have received more than a dozen separate reports.
“At this point we believe the losses are over $30,000,” Emerson said.
Police say in all of the cases, a suspect contacts the senior either in person or over the phone and says their grandchild has been arrested or in an accident and is in need of money.
The scammer then takes a credit card number over the phone. In one case, police say the suspect attended an elderly person’s home and took the cash in person.
In all four cases, police say the scammer falsely identified themselves as a police officer or lawyer, or as a grandchild.
The scams have defrauded the seniors of more than $25,000 this week alone, police said.
Police are warning the public that scammers will prey on people’s emotions, and urge people to question anyone who demands money or personal information.
“If someone is claiming that your family member is in trouble, confirm with your family before you provide personal or financial information,” EPS Staff Sgt. Tom Paton said.
“If the person claims to be from a police service, you can call the service directly to confirm the situation. Police will never contact you and demand money.”
In the case where the suspect picked up the money in person, police said the woman was described as five-foot-three in height with a slender build. She had dark brown or black hair and her head was covered at the time.
Grandparent scheme an ‘insidious’ scam, advocate says
Two weeks ago, senior Terry Hughes and her husband nearly fell victim to a grandparent scam. Hughes said they received a phone call from someone claiming to be their grandson.
Hughes said her husband took the phone call. The person on the other end said, ‘Grandpa, I’m so sick.’ They went on to say they had COVID-19 and were calling from jail.
The caller claimed they had borrowed a friend’s vehicle and were driving down Deerfoot Trail when they were stopped by police. The scammer said police found drugs in the vehicle and he was taken to jail.
The caller asked for $10,000 bail money and urged the grandpa not to hang up because he only got one call.
“In the meantime, I’ve run downstairs and I’m going, ‘It’s a scam, it’s a scam!’” Hughes said, adding she called their daughter to see where their grandson was. As it turned out, he was at home safe and sound.
“This young man has gotten really aggressive, fast-talking, ‘You gotta help me, man. You’ve gotta help me, dude!’”
Hughes said the scammer managed to get some details right, including the fact their grandson lives in Calgary. She’s not sure if it was just a coincidence or something more researched.
“Scary because it was so real and so believable,” Hughes said.
Scams that prey on seniors
The CEO of CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy organization, said the grandparent scam is one of the most insidious scams they deal with.
“Also one of the most successful because it preys on the hearts of seniors who have grandchildren,” Laura Tamblyn Watts said.
“Somebody calls up and they say, ‘Grandma or grandpa,’ based on the voice on the other end, ‘it’s me!’ And then they wait. Then you say, ‘Oh is that you Matthew?’ ‘Yes, it’s me Matthew.’
“They’ve been in a car accident, they’ve been put in jail, they need medical attention. There’s something that’s urgent right away.”
Tamblyn Watts said the more sophisticated grandparent scams involve more than one person, with the second pretending to be a lawyer or police officer.
“We’ve seen a sharp rise in grandparent scams, even in the last month.”
If something doesn’t seem right, the advocate encourages people to hang up and call their grandchild directly to verify it’s them. Or, Tamblyn Watts said the person on the receiving end of the call should ask questions such as: What is your dog’s name? What kind of vehicle do you drive?
Family members can help too by talking to their elderly loved ones about scams.
“Being able to know that is happens is actually one of the best defences,” Tamblyn Watts explained.
Emerson said while there’s often a local component to the scam, it’s often based out of province.
“These types of offenders try to victimize the most vulnerable people in the community and it’s very frustrating that they’re doing that, because in some cases, this is their life savings.”
Anyone who has fallen victim to this grandparent scam is asked to contact the EPS at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone.
— With files from Sarah Ryan, Global News.
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