‘Emergency’ scammers targeting grandparents, OPP warn

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Net Patrol International Inc.  Data Investigation and Forensic Services
Bankruptcy and Insolvency Trustees

July 27, 2021 – The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are reminding the public to be vigilant for emergency phone call scams.

OPP said “Grandma, it’s me…I need help…please don’t tell anyone” is a common opening line used to target unsuspecting victims as part of an emergency scam. Scammers prey on vulnerable persons and seniors, and play on their emotions in order to defraud them of their money.

In a typical emergency scam, the victim will receive a frantic phone call from someone claiming to be a grandchild or loved one. Quite often the calls are made in the middle of the night to cause further confusion and to come across as extremely urgent. Scammers will often state that they are not feeling well and, therefore, sound a bit different. The caller will explain that they are involved in some sort of trouble with the law or have trouble returning from a foreign country and need money right away. 

The scammers will often request an electronic money transfer or money to be withdrawn and picked up by a courier service.

Be aware of emergency scam warning signs:

  • Urgency: The scammer always makes the request sound very urgent, which may cause the victim to not verify the story.
  • Fear: The scammer plays on the victim’s emotions by generating a sense of fear. For instance they may say, “I am scared and I need help from you.”
  • Secrecy: The scammer pleads with the victim not to tell anyone about the situation, such as, “Please don’t tell my parents, they would be so mad.”
  • To avoid becoming a victim, police advise to first check with another family member or trusted friend to verify the information BEFORE sending money.

OPP are encouraging people who think they are victim of an emergency scam, contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). You can also report fraud through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll-free at 1-888-495-8501 or antifraudcentre.ca.