“You will receive an unexpected phone call from someone claiming to be a relative. They tell you they are in a crisis and need your help. They need your money,” Insp. Paul Rinkoff says in a video published by the Toronto Police Service.
The public service announcement by the Unit Commander of the Service’s Financial Crimes Unit was issued on Jan. 6, days after the close of a year that saw Ontario seniors defrauded out of over $5.4 million by “professional scammers” orchestrating the ruse, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC).
“Often targeting seniors, the grandparent scam takes advantage of your good nature to help your loved ones during an emergency. But the caller is not your loved one and the emergency is not real,” Rinkoff said.
According to the non-profit Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, seniors are a prime target for this scam and others because they are perceived to have more wealth and less technological know-how than their younger counterparts.
Also playing into their vulnerability is their availability, according to the provincially funded organization.
“For one, older seniors may be less mobile, less socially active and therefore more available to read all their emails, answer the phone and respond to texts from strangers. This level of availability makes it easier for scammers to establish contact,” the EPAO said.
Earlier this month, Toronto police renewed their call for vigilance in the face of the notorious scam in an advisory. At the time, investigators told CTV News Toronto that grandparent scam calls are still being received by seniors in the city “regularly.”
“The public advisory is posted to remind people to be vigilant when receiving calls,” a spokesperson for Toronto police said in an email. “Challenge the person who is trying to solicit funds by letting you believe your loved one is in trouble.”
But what happens after vigilance fails and scammers capitalize on a senior’s good nature? Chances are, if the fraudster has demanded a large sum of cash, the victim goes to the bank.
With that in mind, CTV News Toronto reached out to Canada’s Big Six banks to see how they combat the scam at a branch level.
From preventative measures to on-the-spot decisions made by tellers if the scam is suspected to be at play, here’s what they said:
TORONTO-DOMINION BANK (TD)
For TD Bank, a spokesperson said if a risk is identified in speaking with a customer looking to make a large withdrawal, “a more detailed conversation” takes place to “learn about the nature of the transaction.”
“If concerns remain, [TD employees] can engage our fraud prevention teams,” Ashleigh Murphy, senior manager of corporate and public affairs at TD Bank, told CTV News Toronto.
Earlier this year, TD started using a new form, dubbed the TD Canada Trust Form for Large Cash Withdrawals, as an added layer of protection against the scam.
The form reads: “TD has warned me fraudsters may ask victims to mail cash, deposit cash…or send funds to international accounts…I confirm I am acting of my own free will and have not been pressured by a third party to withdraw this cash.”
Murphy confirmed that TD still uses the form to prevent fraud.
ROYAL BANK OF CANADA (RBC)
In an email, RBC said getting ahead of the scam at an awareness level is its/the company’s key to keeping customers safe.
“We deeply value our relationships with our clients and identify opportunities to educate them on a variety of financial wellbeing topics, including fraud prevention,” Cheryl Brean, director of communications for personal and commercial banking at RBC, said, before pointing to the bank’s Protecting Yourself and 5 Cyber Scams Targeting Seniors online guidebook.
Brean said RBC has several fraud prevention measures in place at a customer-facing level, but could not provide specifics about what those looked like at a branch for “a number of reasons.”
“If a client is concerned that they may be the target of a fraud or scam, they can speak with us by calling the number on the back of their client card or by contacting their local branch,” she added.
NATIONAL BANK OF CANADA
The National Bank of Canada said if an “unusual transaction” is suspected, tellers must exercise due diligence to prevent fraud.
“The teller may request an additional delay and not proceed ‘on-the-spot’ with the transaction if it does not appear in our client’s best interest,” Alexandre Guay, senior advisor for public affairs and government relations at National Bank of Canada, said.
Like the other Big Six banks contacted for this story, National Bank of Canada provided its resources to detect signs of the grandparent scam which can be viewed here.
Scotiabank said it has “strong measures” in place to protect its customers from fraud and works with other stakeholders within the county’s finance sector to develop its best practices.
“We take cases of fraud very seriously and work closely with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), law enforcement, and counterparts at other financial institutions to ensure we are taking appropriate measures to help protect our customers,” Natalie Yuen, manager of Canadian banking communications for Scotiabank, said in an email.
CTV News Toronto asked for specifics on Scotiabank’s anti-fraud protocols at a branch level but has not received a response.
BANK OF MONTREAL (BMO)
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Anke Suwanda, senior manager of media relations at BMO, said the bank works with its employees to identify and prevent suspected fraud.
In at least one instance, and as reported by CTV News Kitchener, a BMO branch successfully blocked the withdrawal of thousands of dollars by a customer who was caught up in the scam.
“We offer resources and tools to help employees identify suspected frauds and scams, and to enable them to raise concerns and caution vulnerable customers who could be victims of financial abuse,” Suwanda wrote.
CANADIAN IMPERIAL BANK OF COMMERCE (CIBC)
CIBC directed CTV News Toronto to a statement from the Canadian Bankers Association on how it deals with the grandparent scam.
In it, the CBA said staff members at banks in Canada, both foreign and domestic, are trained to “ask questions” if a customer makes an unusual transaction.
“These scams often involve the victims being coached to misinform their bank when asked about the purpose of their withdrawal. It’s important that account owners be forthright when speaking with their banks about transactions, so they can provide support to navigate the situation,” Kiki Cloutier, a spokesperson for the CBA said.
Asked for specifics about CIBC’s protocol when the scam is identified at a branch level, Stephanie Marcus, a public affairs consultant with CIBC, said the bank’s approach aligns with the CBA’s directive.
HOW TO PROTECT AGAINST SCAMS
These are the tips offered by Toronto police to prevent becoming a victim of the scam yourself.
- Police officers will never attend your address in full or partial uniform to collect cash
- Law enforcement officials will never contact family members and request money for bail or send someone to their home to pick up money
- Do not attend your bank to withdraw money to give to an unknown person following a frantic telephone call. Instead, call another family member for clarification, or contact police
- Never confirm any personal information over the phone
This article was originally sourced from www.CP24.com