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A phone call to his home in Ingersoll, Ontario. two weeks ago sent Diane Lindsay into a panic.
On the other end was a man who said he was a police officer from the Woodstock RCMP, who said his grandson was in an accident. When police went to investigate, they found drugs in his car, the man said.
Her grandson was in jail and she had to post a $9,000 bond to get him out, she told him.
Lindsay contacted her husband, Ron, to arrange for the money. But when Ron heard the story, he had his suspicions.
“They want money. And it seems that there is a gag order by the court, so he didn’t tell anyone,” he said. “I told him, ‘This is like a scam.'”
The story is descriptive. Lindsay was told that her grandson was sick and that a friend of hers took him to the drug store and got into an accident on the way. The man knew the couple’s name, knew they had a grandchild, and when Diane spilled her grandchild’s name, knew who to ask about.
At one point, the voice on the other end even said that it made Lindsay talk to her grandson.
“She didn’t sound like her, but she said, ‘Grandma, I’m very sick and that’s why I’m so long to go get something,'” she said. “I have a lot of confidence.”
While Ron had his suspicions, he was still skeptical because this phone call seemed different from the rest.
“It’s not a traditional parenting idea that I’ve heard a lot about,” she said. “You spoke well… [had] Good words, all the right words, and you want money, not bitcoins or credit cards.”
Ron didn’t plan to collect money but drove to his daughter’s house, where he found his grandson – healthy and not in jail.
“They must have some background information before they do this,” he said.
Seniors are most likely to lose money in scams, the OPP said
While the Lindsays were lucky not to fall for the scam, many seniors in Ontario are not so lucky.
The number of adults who fall victim to fraud has continued to increase over the past three years and so have the dollar losses, data from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center (CAFC) shows.
According to CAFC data of 2022, 1,177 emergency scams were reported across Ontario and $5.4 million dollars were lost. The majority of reported emergency scams, which include what are known as parenting scams, came from adults over the age of 60, with 917 reported resulting in a total loss of nearly $4.6 million .
Across Canada, 2,488 emergency incidents have been reported, with losses exceeding $9.4 million dollars, data from the CAFC shows.
In 2021, there were 257 emergency incidents reported across Ontario, accounting for 660,000 dollars lost. Most of those reports are also from adults.
Scammers often target people with a landline, said Det.-Const. John Armit with the Ontario Provincial Police.
“When you go to websites like Canada 411, you can get someone’s phone number, address and name. Hackers can easily pivot and go to a search engine and see if there is an obituary and if there is information on their grandchildren or relatives that they used. to manipulate elders,” said Armit.
Armit said five to 10 percent of victims report their fraud to law enforcement or the CAFC. Because of the variety of individuals involved in parenting scams — including callers, couriers, couriers and money laundering — he said the OPP believes they are the result of organized crime.
It says seniors are 33 per cent more likely to lose money to a scam, compared with any other age group. And if they have been punished, they will be punished again.
“Terrorists keep a list of who has provided money and so they will come to the victims with different fraudulent advertising and always a sense of urgency with these frauds,” he said. “They have improved their advertising to use techniques psychology that causes people to fear and want to react quickly.”
Those “pitches” can include identity fraud, extortion, crypto, and romance scams. Armit said those aged 70 and up happen to be particularly susceptible to grandfather scams.
But there are programs aimed at helping adults stay ahead of these scams.
CAFC’s Senior Support Unit allows senior volunteers to reach out to other seniors, provide literature and guide them through fraud loss training sessions as an active measure. They also offer support to elderly people who have fallen.
Mathieu Labrèche, director of media strategy and communications at the Canadian Bankers Association said the organization also offers a program for seniors to recognize the signs of fraud and protect against it. Your Money Seniors Program features a fraud prevention plan implemented by volunteer banks across the country.
“I hope that the effect will be that they stop and think twice if they are in a situation where they are either under threat or forced to do something that they feel is wrong,” he said.
Organizations such as churches, condo associations, library programs and others with 10 or more people can request CBA to host a conference in their area, through the organization’s website, he added.
Adults often fear traffic because of embarrassment
Organizations in Ontario such as Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario also work to educate seniors about scams.
Laura Proctor, an elder abuse prevention counselor there, sees firsthand how parenting scams affect adults. He said 20 percent of the calls his organization receives are directly related to fraud and scams.
“The most common emotion I hear from adults calling our line is shame,” she said.
He said there is also a reason why traffic numbers are often so low.
“They are afraid of reporting to the authorities because they are worried about losing their freedom, that individuals may feel that their power is in question.”
The group is authorized by the local government to provide websites, fact sheets, and information sessions at sports centers. Proctor said education is key, but so is understanding when cheaters are on the move.
“The threat of social isolation really increases the risk factor [and] the possibility of someone getting hurt. So criminals, any perpetrator or perpetrator, are often prey on that divide. “
“Many times fraudsters hide behind the pretense of being a person of authority. And we as conscientious Canadians want to follow that authority,” he said. “This is also what I hear is ‘Why didn’t I ask? It seems too good to be true. I should have asked more questions. “
Armit said seniors need to know that police will not ask residents to accept money to save loved ones or current gag orders. He encouraged seniors to call local police to verify information and reach out to loved ones who scammers claim to be victims.
“The most important tool is to stop, think about it, make the phone calls, and then make your decision.”