Grandparent scam on the rise in York

The York Regional Police (YRP) Financial Crimes Unit is warning area residents to be vigilant about ‘grandparent scams’ after unsuspecting victims were swindled out of $50,000 in a one-week period this month.

“Often, criminals will place a telephone call to an elderly person while posing as their grandchild in distress, demanding money to get them out of trouble,” Const. Maniva Armstrong explains.

“In some cases, a second suspect will play the role of a government official, a police officer or a lawyer who then provides instructions on how the victim can deliver the money. These types of frauds may be repeated over the course of days, weeks or even months, as the criminals gain the trust of their victims.”

Grandparent scams, also known as ‘emergency scams,’ have risen “dramatically” in 2022 compared to 2021, YRP says. Since 2019, the total reported loss for victims in this type of scam is just under $1 million. Thirteen incidents, mostly from Newmarket and Aurora, were reported and more than $50,000 was lost between August 4 and 11. Investigators believe there may be more victims in York that have not yet reported a fraud to police.

If you receive such a call, YRP advises you to never offer personal or financial information to the caller and to never send money to someone you don’t know. Call the grandchild or family member in question at a phone number you recognize as their own and verify the story or information. Ask the caller personal questions only your grandchild could answer. Press the caller for details if they identify as a government official and verify their information. Ask yourself: ‘Could this be a scam?’ ‘Does it make sense?’

YRP encourages you to share fraud prevention tips with friends and family, especially seniors or newcomers to Canada, who are frequently targeted. Employees at financial institutions and courier services are asked to help identify anyone who may be a target of a grandparent scam and to contact police if something appears unusual and suspicious.

A list of ongoing scams, including grandparent scams, and tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud are available at yrp.ca/fraud. If you’ve been a victim of a fraud and have lost money, report the incident promptly to the YRP Financial Crimes Unit at yrp.ca/ReportIt or by calling 1-866-876-5423, ext. 6627. To report frauds in which no money was lost, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by calling 1-888-495-8501.

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