Fraud Scheme often preys upon Vulnerable, Compassionate Seniors
ORILLIA, ON, March 15, 2012 /CNW/ - The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) say the telephone and e-mail continue to be great tools for con artists to take seniors and vulnerable citizens for hundreds or even thousands of dollars at a time.
Members of the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch say the "Emergency Scam" has been around for many years but it continues to wreak havoc in communities across Ontario. The fact that seniors are often too nice for their own good and are hesitant to say 'no' to someone on the phone make them easy targets for criminals.
In the usual "emergency" scenario, an elderly person receives a phone call or e-mail from a con-artist claiming to be one of his or her grandchildren, a friend of the family, or a former neighbour. The caller or e-mailer goes on to indicate that they are in some kind of trouble and 'need money immediately.' Typically, they claim to have been in a car accident, or are having trouble returning from a foreign country, or they need money for bail. The fraudster specifically asks that they do not want other relatives to 'know what has happened', saying something similar to "Don't tell Dad. He would be very upset with me if he found out. Please send the money ASAP. I'm scared." Typically, the victims don't verify the story until after the money has been sent through a wire transfer service or by giving access to personal banking or credit card information.
In 2011, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre -- located in North Bay, Ontario -- received 3,309 complaints of criminals using the "Emergency Scam" -- sometimes referred to as the "Grandparent Scam" -- in Canada. Of those, 462 people were identified as victims who reported a loss of more than $2.5 million. Compounding the problem, many more victims are reluctant to report the crime, either out of embarrassment or not knowing how.
To guard against becoming a victim, police advise you to first check with another family member or trusted friend to verify the information BEFORE providing money or credit card information. It is vitally important that the incident be reported every time it occurs, to allow police to investigate and charge the perpetrators.
If you suspect you or someone you know has been a victim of an 'emergency' money transfer, contact your local police service or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).
"Preying on the emotions of family members or friends by creating a falsely urgent or desperate situation contributes to an already long history of crime, because it has been successful. Increasing awareness of fraud is the first step toward decreasing its devastating impact."
- Deputy Commissioner Scott TOD, OPP Investigations and Organized Crime
"If you are suspicious about the caller or the circumstances of the request being made for your money, protect yourself…hang up the phone! And then report the crime!"
- Acting Inspector Scott JAMES, OPP Anti-Rackets Branch
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre - The Emergency or Grandparent Scam
Glossary of Pitch Types from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
Emergency: Any phone call or e-mail from someone claiming to be a friend or family member stating to be in some kind of trouble, usually being arrested, involved in a car accident or trapped in a foreign country and need money immediately for bail, medical fees, or a ticket home. This is sometimes referred to as the Grandparent Scam.
Extortion: Any person who unlawfully obtains money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion.
MEDIA NOTE: This is the third of five weekly OPP media releases on various criminal activities as part of Fraud Prevention Month.
Contact: Detective Constable Dave Felstead, OPP Anti-Rackets Branch, Phone: 705-329-6467