Grandparent scam continues to rob seniors; three charged this month
Since the beginning of 2022, we estimate more than $1.6 million has been stolen from approximately 122 seniors in Calgary by fraudsters using what’s known as the ‘grandparent scam.’ September saw a sharp rise in this fraud with 93 reported incidents of which 35 victims lost money to the scammers.
Over the past couple weeks, three individuals have been arrested and charged, including one who was caught in the act by officers. Two other individuals were arrested following investigations into some of the recent occurrences. It is not yet known if, or how, the suspects are connected to each other.
Sebastian PULGARIN OSORIO, 29, has been charged with five counts of defrauding a person over $5,000, and will next appear in court on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.
Martina Kristal VALENTINI, 38, has been charged with two counts of defrauding a person over $5,000, and will next appear in court on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022.
All three suspects have been released from custody on bail.
Investigators believe these local scammers are able to gather detailed information about the victims to lend credibility to the story they tell. In general, victims are contacted by phone by someone pretending to either be a relative, a police officer, or someone in the legal system such as a lawyer or bail bondsman. The victim is told their loved one needs financial help (bail money, lawyer fees etc.) and they are advised to go to their bank to withdraw cash in sums ranging from a few thousand to more than $10,000. They then advise the victim a ‘courier’ or ‘bail bondsman’ will come to their home to collect the cash. Victims may be contacted over several days.
In August, one victim was defrauded of nearly $300,000.
“These unscrupulous scammers use personalized information to legitimize their claims, preying on the good will of seniors who will do anything to look after their family members. Any senior, not just those with cognitive concerns, can be victimized by these individuals. It is up to us as Calgarians, as employees in businesses or services in contact with seniors and as family members, to help educate the seniors in our lives about these scams,” says Calgary Police Service General Investigations Unit Staff Sergeant Andrea Koolick.
The Calgary Police Service would like to remind citizens that:
- Bail payments can only be paid in person at the courthouse or correctional centres and receipts will be issued.
- Only Canadian currency, debit and credit cards are accepted as payment. Gift cards, e-transfers and cheques are not accepted.
- Funds will never be transferred to other accounts.
- In the vast majority of situations, the person needing bail will make phone calls themselves to secure bail, not police.
Information on how seniors can protect themselves, along with a description of how the grandparent scam is typically played out, is available on the Calgary Police Service website. When in doubt, verify the story you are being told by contacting the alleged family member directly or a third-party family member to help.
Anyone with information about similar incidents is asked to contact police by calling 403-266-1234. Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers through any of the following methods:
APP: P3 Tips