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Police issue warning after senior with dementia loses $600K to repeated grandparent scams

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The Ontario provincial police are warning Canadians to be vigilant after a senior with dementia lost $600,000 through repeated grandparent scams.

"She had dementia so she couldn't remember the situation from the day before,” Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Detective Sergeant John Armit told to CTV News. “So everyday that she got a call it was a new grandparent scam over and over and she lost $600,000 to these scammers.”

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canadian’s lost more than $11.3 million to the scam last year, where criminals make random calls pretending to be grandchildren in trouble. Scammers have recently been targeting victims in the Niagara Falls and Western Ontario regions, according to the OPP.

A recent news release warning resident’s of the scam states that from Jan. 1 to Feb. 16, 2024, Ontario residents represented over $4.6 million of the $11.3 million in associated losses.

Oftentimes, criminals target telephone landlines which are more likely to be owned by seniors and pretend to be a grandchild in trouble by saying “Grandma is that you? It’s me your grandson and I’m in trouble.”

If the grandparent responds with a name such as “Is that you Jordan?” the scammers begin a story saying they’ve been injured in an accident they caused, arrested because they were drinking and driving or some other scenario where they have been detained.

They will ask for bail money and often another person will come on the phone claiming to be a police officer or prosecutor who demands thousands of dollars for bail.

"From coast to coast to coast we are seeing the exact scam continue" Armit said.

Mike McCarthy of Newcastle, Ont. said his parents received an emergency grandparent scam call recently.

He said that his father called him on the other line, concerned that his granddaughter had been in a car accident and was in need of funds.

McCarthy’s parents said that the caller sounded “exactly like [McCarthy’s] daughter.”

"Right away I said ‘dad are you sure?’ he said ‘yeah it's her voice and I heard it with mom and they were talking with her,’” said McCarthy, adding that they 100 per cent believed the caller to be his daughter.

Luckily, his parents didn't fall for the scam and hung up after the caller made a slip.

“My kids always call their Grandma Nana and the scammer was calling my mother Grandma” said McCarthy.

McCarthy wanted to share his story to raise awareness of the scam.

"If you can talk to your parents, families, your elders so they know about this scam to prevent it from happening” said McCarthy.

Armit said that the courts or police will never call you demanding bail money and come to your home to pick it up, or tell you to keep the call secret because there's a gag order.

In addition, some scammers may be using artificial intelligence to impersonate the voice of family members. However, the OPP said most are calling landline phone numbers and hoping to catch a grandparent off guard.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be a grandchild in trouble, hang up and reach out to their family right away. 

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