Over a dozen people have fallen victim to a scam in Winnipeg over the past six days that has resulted in significant losses.
The Winnipeg Police Service says that they have recently seen a significant increase in local "grandparent scam" (also known as "emergency scam"). There have been 15 incidents reported to the WPS over the past six days, resulting in total losses of $100,000.
The WPS says in a release that the "grandparent scam" often involves an actor calling an elderly person and claiming to be a grandchild who is in serious legal trouble and needs money immediately. The caller sometimes cries, and there is often urgency and secrecy around the demands.
In October 2021, the Winnipeg Police Service issued a cautionary media release in response to an increase in "grandparent scams" targeting the elderly.
This release was followed up in March 2022, when it was discovered that the scam had escalated to the point where couriers or rideshare drivers were physically attending the victim's residence to collect funds – rather than relying on an online transfer.
An example of the scam, as seen in recent local incidents, occurs as follows:
A caller will claim to be a nephew, niece or grandchild – and sometimes provides the first name. They then claim to have been involved in an accident (such as a collision with a vehicle).
They then claim to have been arrested and jailed. The phone is passed to another actor who claims to be a lawyer and can come off as very professional.
The victim is told that money is needed for bail; otherwise, the family member will continue to be jailed. They are also told that a "gag order" has been put in place by a judge and that they cannot discuss the matter with anyone, including other family members or the bank.
Instructions are given to the victim to inform the bank that the money will be used for home repairs or something similar.
The victim is given a phone number to call, or the fraudster calls back soon after.
Once the money is obtained, the victim is told a bondsperson will attend their home. This fictitious bondsperson will attend the residence and take the cash – completing the scam.
There may be additional attempts to retrieve money from the victim over the following days.
Warning signs – How to protect yourself:
Knowledge is critical when it comes to preventing these frauds.
- The police and courts will never send someone to your house to collect money.
- The police and courts, including lawyers, will never tell you to lie to the bank about the purpose of obtaining money.
- These scammers will pressure people to act quickly before they have time to consider what they are doing or agreeing to. Always talk to a trusted person before providing personal information or funds, especially if it is an unsolicited call.
- We urge people to converse with their elderly relatives regarding this fraud.
- If you receive a call like this, please contact the police immediately.
If you have been victimized by the "grandparent scam":
If you have been a victim of fraud, document all the information you can recall about your fraudulent transaction, e.g. receipts, copies of emails, text messages and courier companies.
It is also crucial that you report the fraud – doing so can help you possibly recover any loss, and it helps protect the community from future frauds and scams.
Information on how to report the "grandparent scam" can be found here: https://www.winnipeg.ca/police/TakeAction/frauds_scams.stm#report