Dramatic increase in 'Grandparent Scams' this year: Winnipeg police

The Winnipeg Police Service is warning the public after a dramatic increase in the number of “emergency” scams seen across Canada in 2021.

In a release on Friday, police said there were 457 reports of the scheme, also known as the “Grandparent Scam,” in Canada throughout the first half of this year with many cases impacting Manitobans.

The scheme involves a fraudster calling seniors and posing as a grandchild or another family member. The scammer claims they have been arrested and need bail money or need financial help in an emergency.

Another variation sees the fraudster pretending to be a representative of the relative, such as an attorney.

Once the elderly victim has been tricked the scammer will send couriers to pick up money. Police said, in some cases, ride-share drivers have been used to collect the cash.

The release said there have been 136 victims in 2021 so far, totalling nearly $1.1-million in losses Canada-wide.

The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) is sharing some helpful tips and encouraging Manitobans to have conversations with elderly relatives about these scams:

  • Be suspicious of phone calls that demand money or require immediate action. Contact the relative back or reach out to another family member to confirm.
  • Don’t volunteer information like addresses and birthdates over the phone. Ask the caller to provide details. WPS said some families use code words to confirm their identity.
  • Be wary of caller IDs. WPS said scammers might disguise the number they’re calling from and make it seem like it’s a trust number.

WPS added that law enforcement and other legal agencies will never make urgent requests for money.

Police are asking people victimized by emergency scams to report the crime. Police said it could help recover losses and protect the community from future schemes.

Police said it is important to document all information about the fraud including receipts along with any correspondence, and to contact police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.