Emergency scam continues creating fraud victims

Vulnerable, Compassionate Seniors are Favoured Targets of Criminals

ONTARIO – Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) say scammers continue to inflict financial and emotional harm by preying upon seniors and vulnerable citizens through “The Emergency Scam”.

In 2013, nine (9) per cent of the total number of complaints received at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre were submitted by Canadian victims of the “Emergency Scam” — sometimes referred to as the “Grandparent Scam”. Of those 2,269 complaints, 743 people were identified as victims who reported a loss of more than $2.4 million.

“Increasing awareness is the first step toward reducing the devastating impact of all forms of fraud, particularly to our most vulnerable citizens. I can’t stress enough the importance of reporting any scam. This allows police to investigate, lay charges, and to warn others to minimize the chances of further victimization.”

– Deputy Commissioner Scott Tod, OPP Investigations and Organized Crime

Members of the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch say the “Emergency Scam” has been around for many years but it continues to fuel other criminal enterprises across Ontario. Police believe there are many more victims, but they are reluctant to report the crime, either out of embarrassment or by not knowing how or what to do. The fact that seniors are hesitant to seem rude by saying ‘no’ or hanging up on someone on the phone makes them primary targets for criminals to accrue substantial sums of money through many seemingly small successes.

In a typical “emergency” scam, the victim receives a phone call or e-mail from someone claiming to be a friend or relative in distress. The caller or e-mailer goes on to indicate that they are in some kind of trouble, such as being in a car crash, they need money for bail, or they are having trouble returning from a foreign country. The fraudster specifically asks that the victims to not tell other relatives. You may get a call from two people, one pretending to be a person in distress and the other pretending to be either a police officer or a lawyer. Your so-called “grandchild” asks questions during the call, getting victims to volunteer personal information. Victims generally don’t verify the story until after their money has been sent through a wire transfer service or they have provided access to personal banking or credit card information to criminals.

“The immense profits made through fraud are often funnelled back into criminal organizations to fuel illegal activities which threaten public safety. Protect yourself and your community…hang up the phone or delete the e-mail!”

Inspector Paul Beesley, OPP Anti-Rackets Branch

To guard against becoming a victim, police advise you to first check with another family member or trusted friend to verify the information BEFORE sending any money or providing credit card information by phone or e-mail. These incidents should be reported every time they occur, to allow police to investigate and find the perpetrators.

If you or someone you know may have been the victim of the ‘emergency’ scam, contact your local police service or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).

FRAUD…Recognize it…Report it…Stop it.