ONTARIO — Police are warning of three recent “elaborate and organized” fraud attempts successfully targeting elderly Ontario women living in rural areas this week.
The victims were called by a man claiming to be a police officer who conned them by saying a grandson had been arrested. All three fell for the ruse, which also involved talking on the phone to a fake “grandson” professing to be congested with possible COVID-19. Two of the victims lost thousands of dollars to the “grandparent scam.”
An 84-year-old woman was contacted by a ‘Corporal Matheson’ who lied that her grandson was arrested when drugs were found in a vehicle after a minor collision involving the young man and his friend. Her “stuffed up” grandson got on the line to explain he was on his way to get a COVID test when the accident happened. Persuaded, she agreed to pay $10,000 cash demanded for his release, which was picked up by a courier. The imposter officer called back the following day to say charges would be dropped in return for cash payment of a $12,000 fine. The victim again did as instructed.
A 73-year-old woman was phoned by a fake grandson in trouble and then spoke to a ‘Constable Johnston’ on the call. She similarly gave $6,000 for “bail” the first day and $9,000 to have the “charges dropped” the next day.
Phony ‘Corporal Matheson’ and grandson also reached out to an 83-year-old woman with the same ploy. She was told to withdraw $8,000 and leave the cash under her doormat for the courier. But in her case, the money luckily wasn’t retrieved after the fraudster called for better directions to the house. The woman told him she would call her “granddad” and the scammer hung up.
The OPP is highlighting the similarities in these incidents:
- Male caller claiming to be a police officer;
- Elderly females who live in rural areas (two lived alone, one with husband on a farm, in these instances);
- Bail money is for grandsons who have been arrested with drugs in the vehicle that they were passengers in while on their way to get a COVID test;
- “Grandson” gets to talk to his grandmother in a congested voice;
- Delivery services pick up the money
- Victims are advised to tell the bank the money was for renovations
Police point out that they never demand money to release someone from custody, never demand money for payment of a fine, and never use a courier company to transport payment.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports that such scams are skyrocketing in Canada, with confirmed cases of fraud doubling between 2019 and 2020. There were 39,992 confirmed victims of fraud last year, up from 19,934 in 2019. Victim losses amounted to $104.2 million in 2020. But that’s just the fraud that the Centre knows about. It figures that actual fraud could affect one million people each year as fewer than five per cent of victims report being bilked.
If you or someone you know suspects they have been targeted by a phone call scam, contact your local OPP detachment, nearest police authority, or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.