Kingston, Ont., police say they’re seeing a rise in reports of so-called grandparent scams.
The scams generally target senior citizens and see the victim contacted by telephone by someone pretending to be a member of their family, often a child or grandchild, who tell them they’ve been arrested, often after a supposed car accident.
The scammers have recently been telling victims they have a cold or COVID-19 as a way of explaining the change in their voice, police say.
They will often also ask potential victims not to tell their parents because they are embarrassed about the situation.
As the scam unfolds the victims are passed onto another person pretending to be the family member’s lawyer. This person then tells the victim they need to send cash — often thousands of dollars — to help their family member make bail.
In recent reported occurrences, police say the victims have been told a “bailiff” will come to pick up the cash once it’s withdrawn from the bank and put in a shoebox, and a legitimate courier company is then hired by scammers to pick up the parcel.
Investigators say anyone suspicious of a caller should ask questions someone else is unlikely to be able to answer, to help verify their identity. They also advise telling the caller you’ll call them back, and then calling the family member’s usual phone number to verify the story.
Anyone who thinks they may be the victim of a cybercrime or fraud can report it to Kingston police at 613-549-4660.