Winnipeg Police Service has seen a marked increase in the number of reports of the Emergency or Grandparent Scam. In a media news report released on March 12, 2014 they announced they are aware of 35 victims with estimated losses between $2500- $7000 per incident.
What is the Emergency or Grandparent Scam?
Typically, a grandparent or elderly person will receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a grandchild (or relative, old neighbour, child of a friend, etc.) claiming to be in trouble and needing money immediately. Some examples of reasons they give for needing money urgently are:
- They were in a car accident.
- They are having trouble returning from a foreign country.
- They have been arrested and need bail money.
Some Typical Warning Signs
The con-artist always makes the request sound very urgent, stating they need money immediately, which doesn’t give the victim time to verify the story. Always question urgent request for money.
The con-artist plays on the grandparents sympathy by creating a sense of fear. For example they may say, “I’m in jail (or hospital, or in some type of financial need) and I’m scared. Please help me.”
The con-artist begs the victim not to tell anyone. For example they might say, “Please don’t tell Dad. He would kill me if he found out.”
- Wire Transfer
Money is usually requested to be sent by a money transfer company such as Money Gram, Western Union or even through your own credit union.
- Educate and spread the word.
Winnipeg Police Service encourages all care providers, children and grandchildren to discuss this scam with elderly family members and those individuals who they feel may be susceptible to these pressure tactics. Police, judges, legal entities will never make urgent request(s) for money.
- Take time to double check.
If you receive a suspicious call, always check with another relative before wiring money no matter how urgent it sounds. Never give out family names to unknown callers.
What to do if You Receive a Call
The only way to stop fraud is to catch them. Take these steps to report this scam:
- Make note of the incoming phone number and details of the conversation.
- At the conclusion of the call, activate the call trace feature on your land line (*57) and then contact Winnipeg Police at 204-986-6222.
If someone tells you they are a victim of any scam and feel ashamed of falling prey to a con-artist, reassure them that they were only doing what they thought was right at the time and that these criminals are very intelligent and able to persuade even the most skeptical person. Read March is Fraud Prevention Month to learn more.