Skip to main content

$9K demanded from Edmontonians targeted by 'grandparent scam': police

(FILE) (FILE)
Share

Two more people have been arrested by Edmonton police in connection to so-called grandparent scams.

In separate, unrelated incidents, two women in their 70s recently contacted police reporting they were called by someone pretending to be a nephew who had just been in a crash.

In both cases, the scammer said he needed $9,000 or more in cash to either be released from police custody or pay lawyer fees.

The scam is also known as the emergency scam, because the scammer pretends they have experienced an emergency.

The two women arrested and charged with fraud – aged 31 and 26 – were the people who went to the victims' houses to collect the money, police said.

In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, representatives from the RCMP and the Edmonton Police Service gave more details about the cases.

While small details differentiated the two crimes, they shared common themes, police said.

HOW SCAMMERS CONTACT VICTIMS

In both cases, the scammer told the victim they urgently needed the money and pressured them not to tell anyone else, claiming they didn’t want to be embarrassed.

Police aren’t sure how or why the victims were targeted.

One theory they have is scammers will sell their lists of contacts to other scammers, including to people running a grandparent scam.

They might also be getting the information from a publicly available source, according to investigators.

“It could be as simple as who keeps their phone book anymore. Certain demographics just don't have numbers in the phone books, while seniors may still tend to have their home number in a publicly accessible place like that,” said Cpl. Sean Milne of the Alberta Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit.

However, police say anyone can be a victim of the scam and victims are often targeted again.

HUNDREDS OF SCAMS, THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS

Mounties say they have received more than 150 reports of the scam in Alberta in 2022 alone.

Money lost in the scams is rarely recovered, police said. The average loss is about $11,000, while the largest known instance was $87,000.

“It is life changing in many instances. These people are often seniors, often on a very fixed income, and to assist a family member they will go above and beyond,” said Milne.

“They can’t go get a job and just try to build that nest egg back up.”

The Edmonton Police Service has received 127 reports of the scam since January 2021.

The largest loss from a single victim was $30,000.

"Sadly, families have lost their family heirlooms, life savings, thinking that they were helping a family member in crisis," said Det. Pierre Lamire of the EPS' Investigative Response Team.

That in both of the recent cases a male person called the victims and a female person went to their homes can't be called a pattern, he added. 

"It is our belief this is happening from a call centre in Ontario or Quebec and that they're possibly sending local people and transferring the funds over to these organized groups," Lamire said.

Both police organizations admit there are significant challenges to investigating grandparent scams.

Inmany cases, Lemire says it takes time for the victim to realize they’ve been scammed.

He also says the scammers operate across Canada, making it harder for local police to track them.

However, he added one person was charged in connection with six of the 127 cases reported in Edmonton.

Two people in Edmonton were arrested and charged with fraud in October in a similar scheme. 

Police are offering the following reminders to help the public avoid becoming a victim of a scam:

  • Bail is always paid in person at a courthouse or correctional centre
  • Never send money to anyone you don’t know.
  • If a person claims to be a police officer or judge, call that police service or court. house directly to confirm the situation – police and courts will never demand cash be picked up in person or mailed.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone or online to someone you don’t know—the police or courts will not ask for personal information over the phone.

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a grandparent scam should call the Edmonton Police Service at 780-423-4567 or their local police department.

They should also call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

opinion

opinion The big benefits of adopting a debt-free lifestyle

In his column for CTVNews.ca, financial advice expert Christopher Liew explains the benefits of adopting a debt-free lifestyle, as well as the change in financial mindset and sacrifices it takes.

Stay Connected