The Ottawa Police Service is advising residents a ‘grandparent’ scam is active in Ottawa, and to be vigilant when receiving calls for help from supposed family members. “Everyone thinks they won’t fall for a scam, but these fraudsters are incredibly convincing,” says Sgt. Chantal Arsenault, investigator with the Organized Fraud Unit. “They are counting on the emotional factor to let down your guard. These aren’t simple tricks people are falling for, they are complex, well-planned scams.”
The scenario usually involves a tearful phone call from someone claiming to be a family member. “Their crying will make it difficult to understand what they are saying or to recognize the voice in order to get you to fill in the blanks as to who they are,” warns Sgt. Arsenault. There is always an urgency to the situation. “That’s to prevent you from thinking too much about what they are asking you to do. The scam works because the vast majority of people are honest and willing to help, particularly if it involves a loved one.”
The caller will advise they have been arrested and they urgently need you to send money or gift cards for their bail. “That’s not how the legal system works,” says Sgt. Arsenault. “Bail Hearing in Canada takes place in Court and does not necessarily involve money. If there is a financial penalty involved, it is not paid up front and definitely not by pre-paid gift cards or via transfer to someone’s bank account.”
If you get a call like this, here’s what you should do:
- Never confirm any personal information over the phone.
- Always verify who is calling. If it is a family member as they claim, tell them you will call them back and use the number you have for this person. Don’t use a number given by the caller. Use 411 or the Internet to get the phone number if you don’t have it.
- Don’t be pressured. Take some time to process what you have been told, to see if it makes sense. Ask a trusted friend or family member for their opinion, or if in doubt, call your local police service.
Make sure you, and elderly family members or friends, are aware of current scams and how they work. You can get information from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
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