'Grandparent scam' on the rise in Calgary, warn police

The Calgary police are once again warning the public to be wary of the "so-called" grandparent scam.

45 cases have been reported between August and November

Det. Catherine Davidson and 'grandparent scam; victim Margaret warn the public about the escalation of this senior-targeting crime. (CBC)

The Calgary police are once again warning the public to be wary of the so-called "grandparent scam."

Police said there appears to an increase in the number of cases over the past few months.

The scam targets the elderly. In each case, the con artist contacts potential victims by phone and poses as a family member or friend in urgent need of cash.

The scenario often involves an accident or arrest while travelling and an urgent plea for cash to be sent through a money transfer company like Western Union or Money Gram or by purchasing prepaid credit or gift cards.

In many cases, a follow-up call will be made by a second suspect claiming to be a lawyer representing their relative and provides details of how the money transaction should be made.

Margaret's story

Margaret, a recent victim of this scam spoke to reporters on Friday about her experience, saying that she felt a responsibility to "speak properly for the other victims."

"They try to catch you when you are at your worst," Margaret said. "Either early in the morning or in my case, late Friday night."

Margaret was contacted by a person claiming to be her grandson in Montreal.

"They're very careful in their little pitch, they have it so well memorized that they get quite annoyed if you don't give the right answer."

Despite several red flags and Margaret's increasing suspicion, the scammers pushed her until she sent money by courier.

Seniors more trusting

“Seniors are a target, many times because they have accumulated wealth in many cases, often they come out of a generation that’s just a little more trusting," said Susan Eng, vice president of advocacy for the Canadian Associate of Retired Persons (CARP).

According to a police statement, there have been a total of 45 cases between August and November of this year amounting to approximately $74,000 being stolen. In one case alone, the suspects were successful in conning someone out of nearly $15,000.

Fortunately in many cases the money transfers were cancelled, otherwise this number would have been much larger.

Eng said banks do recognize that there are frauds and scams out there and have started to take measures to ensure that clients are more protected.

"Often the tellers will stop them and say, ‘Are you sure?’ They’ve been trained to alert the customer, ask gently if really this is necessary," said Eng. "So the banks do realize that they do have a role to play, their front office staff do have some training in this regard."

Variations of this scam do exist, such as someone posing as an old neighbour or a friend of the family. Predominantly, the emergency scam is directed towards grandparents.

"There is no rush, you’re not going to get a call from the court saying if you don’t pay in the next 20 minutes, your grandson is going to jail," said Det. Catherine Davidson."Any legitimate place will wait, they will wait for money. They will wait for you to have a few days to talk to your loved one or a trusted neighbour or something to be able to confirm that story."

Margaret's advice to the public was simple.

"Hang up."

Anyone with information about this investigation is asked to call police at 403-266-1234 or Crime Stoppers.


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