Anti-fraud campaign aims to raise awareness about ‘significant increase’ in grandparent scams

By Patricia D'Cunha

The RCMP, OPP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) are launching a fraud prevention campaign to raise awareness about what they call a “significant increase” in grandparent scams that are targeting seniors.

The campaign, which runs Feb. 6-10, will offer tips on social media and provide information via bulletins, as well as a live chat at 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday hosted by the OPP and the CAFC on the provincial police’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

Last year, the CAFC said it received reports of fraud totalling $530 million in victim losses, an increase of nearly 40 per cent from the previous year.

More than $9.2 million was reported lost to emergency scams, which include “grandparent scams” — a staggering increase from $2.4 million in 2021.

Seniors in Ontario were the hardest hit by fraudsters and were scammed out of more than $5.4 million in 2022, followed by Alberta with over $1.1 million.


“Emergency scams, including variations called ‘grandparent scams,’ use urgency and the manipulation of emotions to extort money from victims,” the RCMP said in a release.

It usually involves someone calling an elderly person and saying a loved one is in trouble, then demanding large sums of money. In some cases, suspects may pretend to be a police officer, government official or lawyer and provide instructions on how the victim can send them money.

“They’ll say that the person’s loved one was involved in an emergency situation, such as a collision, charged by law enforcement, legal peril, being sick or injured, etc. They demand the senior provide payment immediately for supposed bail, legal fees, fines or other amounts ‘owed’ to stop the family member from going to jail or to get them released from custody. This is a scam.”

The CAFC said in a new variation of the scam, the victim will receive a text or message on social media, where the suspect claims to be a family member or loved one and says their cellphone is broken or has been dropped in water. The fraudster will then provide another phone number to send a text and will then ask for money to repair the broken phone or to pay a bill.

As part of the awareness campaign, police are asking people who know a senior or who have an elderly family member to have a conversation on what to do if they get a suspicious phone call and to consider coming up with a code word.

Police estimate that only five to 10 per cent of victims of fraud report it to law enforcement or the CAFC.

Tips on how to protect yourself (provided by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre):

  • If you receive a phone call claiming to be from a family member in an emergency situation, hang up the phone and contact them directly using a phone number you already have – not one provided by the suspected fraudster.
  • If the caller claims to be a law enforcement official, hang up and call your local police directly, using a phone number from a reputable source – not one provided by the suspected fraudster
  • Be suspicious of telephone calls that require you to immediately act and request money for a family member in distress
  • Listen to that inner voice that is screaming at you “This doesn’t sound right”
  • It is important to know the Canadian Criminal Justice System does not allow for someone to be bailed out of jail with cash or cryptocurrency
  • Be careful what you post online — scammers can get details that you shared on social media platforms and dating sites to target you or get names and details about your loved ones
  • Don’t trust caller ID names and numbers — scammers use technology to disguise the actual number they are calling from and can make it appear as a trusted phone number, also known as spoofing

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