Fake grandchild scam returns to Alberta
A phone scam targeting seniors that involves a fake grandchild in trouble has resurfaced in southern Alberta.
Eight residents at Canmore's Bow River Senior Citizens Lodge have complained about the con in the last week, said Ian Wilson, who runs the facility.
The caller claims to be a grandchild in some kind of trouble, often in the hospital or in jail, and in need of cash. When the scam works, the caller tricks the senior into naming one of his or her real grandchildren to make the story believable, then convinces the senior to wire money.
"I think somebody is out there and they're preying on a vulnerable sector of our population," Wilson said. "Seniors are being targeted because chances are they have some money in the bank and they want to help."
The scam, known as the grandparent or emergency con, peaked two years ago but is becoming popular again, according to national anti-fraud centre PhoneBusters
"It's a huge, huge, huge North American problem," said RCMP Corp. Louis Robertson. "Unfortunately we let our guard down and we stopped talking about it."
Most of the scammers are based in Canada, according to the RCMP and the FBI.
As of Oct. 31, there were 366 attempts reported in Canada alone, of which 88 resulted in seniors losing money. That is almost double the total number in 2008. Seniors lost more than $300,000 last year to the scam, but Robertson said fewer than five per cent of the victims report the crime.
In March, Montreal police announced they had broken up an international telemarketing "grandson scam" operating out of money transfer stores.
At the time, the RCMP said the fraud touched hundreds of seniors in Canada and the United States who were allegedly bilked out of a total of $3.5 million.