Police Issue Warning on Grandparent Scam
The Calgary Police Service is warning citizens about a scam that has appeared to have escalated in the past few months.
During 2014, police have become aware of 86 cases relating to what is often referred to as the Grandparent Scam.
In each case, con artists have been contacting potential victims over the phone, posing as a family member or friend in urgent need of cash.
Often the scenario involves an accident or arrest while travelling, with a request that cash be sent through a money transfer company, such as Western Union or Money Gram or by purchasing prepaid credit or gift cards.
Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay President and CEO, Sandra Crozier-McKee says, “Typically we’ve seen scammers asking for wire transfers, but now we’re starting to see scammers getting people to purchase grocery gift cards as a way of obtaining personal financial information. This is a new twist on an old scam that we want people to be aware of.”
In the typical scenario, a grandparent receives a phone call from a con artist claiming to be one of his or her grandchildren.
The caller goes on to say they are in some kind of trouble – such as being in a car accident, needing bail money or money to cover vehicle damages. The emphasis is on needing money and immediately.
In the majority of cases, a second suspect makes a follow-up call to the victim claiming to be a lawyer representing their relative and provides the details of how the transaction should be made.
Victims are convinced by the callers, and rushed into sending money because of an “emergency” only to find out afterwards they had been defrauded.
The caller specifically asks that their request be kept secret from other relatives, as they are embarrassed for calling, and do not want anyone else to know what has happened.
Between August and November of this year, there have been a total of 45 cases amounting to approximately $74,000 being stolen. Fortunately in many cases the money transfers were cancelled, otherwise this number would have been much larger.
However, in one case alone, the suspects were successful in conning someone out of nearly $15,000.
Variations of this scam do exist, such as someone posing as an old neighbour or a friend of the family. Predominantly, however, the emergency scam is directed towards grandparents.
Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to call police at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers anonymously using any of the following methods:
TEXT: tttTIPS to 274637
The Calgary Police Service suggests the following crime prevention tips:
- Do not feel pressure to respond to a request until you have a chance to verify the story.
- Never transfer money, or give out credit card or other financial information, until you can verify the person’s identity and the story, and determine whether it is legitimate.
- Ask the caller questions that only your family member would know the answer to.
- Ask for call back numbers in order to confirm the legitimacy of any call you receive.
- When it doubt, check it out. Verify the story with other friends or family members.
- Immediately report suspicious people to police.
For more information on this and other scams visit www.antifraudcentre.ca
Media Contact for Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay:
Marketing and Communications Coordinator