RCMP, OPP, anti-fraud centre join forces to raise awareness about scams

OTTAWA – The OPP, RCMP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) are joining forces to launch a fraud prevention campaign from Feb. 6 to 10.

The campaign aims to raise awareness about the significant increase in emergency-grandparent scams targeting Canadian seniors.

In 2022, the CAFC received fraud reports totalling $530 million in victim losses.

This was nearly a 40 per cent increase from an unprecedented total of $380 million in losses reported in 2021.

“Fraudsters prey on our emotions and our caring nature,” stated Detective Superintendent Dominic Chong of the OPP’s Anti-Rackets Branch and Serious Fraud Office.

“By falsely claiming to be a loved one in trouble, scammers exploit our fears and defraud our seniors out of thousands of dollars everyday across this province.

“I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to educate themselves and the seniors in their family about grandparent scams. The best protection against this type of fraud is awareness and education.”

In 2022, more than $9.2 million was reported lost to emergency scams, according to the CAFC. This was a drastic increase from $2.4 million in 2021.

Reports from residents suggest Ontario is the most impacted province, with over $5.4 million in reported losses.

The scam

Emergency scams, including variations called “grandparent scams,” use urgency and the manipulation of emotions to extort money from victims.

In these scams, fraudsters call seniors, on landline phones, claiming to be a grandchild, family member, law enforcement officer or lawyer calling on behalf of their loved one.

“They’ll say that the person’s loved one was involved in an emergency situation, such as a collision, charged by law enforcement, legal peril, being sick or injured, etcetera,” officials stated.

“They demand the senior provide payment immediately for supposed bail, legal fees, fines or other amounts ‘owed’ to stop the family member from going to jail or to get them released from custody. This is a scam.”

Often fraudsters “isolate victims by informing them there is a court-imposed gag order, and they’re forbidden from discussing the matter,” police say.

“The victims are directed to attend their financial institution to withdraw the requested amount in cash.

“The fraudsters will then send someone to pick it up from the victim’s home or have the victim send the money via courier services.”

Official add there have also been reports of victims paying with cryptocurrency.

If you fall victim to a fraud or know someone who has, contact your local police service to report the crime and also report it to the CAFC at 1-888-495-8501 or online on the Fraud Reporting System (FRS), even if a financial loss did not occur.

Police also recommend reaching out to seniors and elderly family members to discuss what to do if they get a suspicious phone call, and to consider coming up with a code word.