Hamilton police have issued another alert to residents about a popular “grandparent” phone scam that continues to attract victims across southern Ontario.
Investigators say they’ve started a probe into four cases this past week in which victims received calls from persons posing as grandchildren who claim they’ve been arrested and need financial assistance.
“It’s believed that the same suspect or suspects are involved in these crimes due to the similarity in details,” Cst. Indy Bharaj told Global News in an email.
“The ‘fraudsters’ will ask the victim to keep the call private and not alert other family members about the situation. In some instances, they even pass the phone to an accomplice pretending to be a lawyer or law enforcement official.”
Hamilton, Toronto, Halton and Niagara Police services say they have been dealing with cases connected with the lucrative scam since 2017.
People who have fallen victim to the crime include a 76-year-old Niagara woman who lost $11,000 in February when a fake call from a grandchild asked for bail money following a supposed drug seizure by authorities from his vehicle.
“The victim was advised that an ‘officer Henderson’ would arrange a courier to pick up the money at victim’s residence in the city of Niagara Falls,” Niagara Police spokesperson Const. Phil Gavin said in a release.
Gavin said detectives investigated 11 similar incidents that month.
A Toronto senior lost $25,000 to the scam that same month after receiving a phone call in early February by someone claiming to be an RCMP officer.
“He said something about a grandson. Well, I don’t have a grandson, but I said, ‘nephew?’ He said that my nephew had been found at the wrong place at the wrong time. … They discovered three pounds of marijuana in the back, I guess, in the trunk. … I said to him, ‘Well, are you looking for bail?’ And of course, that led right into what he wanted,” said Bill, whose last name Global News has decided not to provide.
Toronto Police say they’ve investigated over 100 similar “grandparent” fraud cases since March 2021
“Not all of them have been successful, but many of them have been for a total of what we can calculate over a million dollars in damages in the last year alone,” Toronto Police Det. David Coffey told Global News.
“It’s likely much higher than that because not everybody reports the crime.”
Hamilton Police are urging residents to be cautious of suspicious phone calls from alleged family members in trouble.
“Never provide personal information over the telephone, text or email. The police will never request payment by money, service business, iTunes/Google Pay, Credit gift cards or bitcoins,” Bharaj said.
— With files from Caryn Lieberman