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Halton Police launch new awareness campaign to combat rise in 'Grandparent' scams

Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) has announced a new campaign aiming to curb the region’s increase in Emergency/Grandparent scams.

Most major banks across Halton will display informational posters warning residents of common tactics used by scammers. According to HRPS, "the poster is designed to serve as a warning to potential victims attending their banks to withdraw funds."

Concerned about the possible increase in these types of scams over the holiday season, the Regional Fraud Unit is encouraging residents to "take time during the holidays to speak with their older family members about this ongoing scam."

Grandparent scams have unfortunately been on the rise since summertime, and haven't simmered down yet. In fact, the last time we covered this issue - within the span of a week - 42 emergency scams totaling over $520,000 were reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. 22 of those were from Ontario, and the money lost was valued at over $115,000.

In a typical emergency scam scenario, the victim – generally an older person – receives an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to be their grandchild or a loved one in distress. Scammers, increasingly, are also identifying themselves as a police officer "and/or other participants of the criminal justice system (such a lawyers, bailiffs, and "bondsman"), while falsely claiming that the victim’s loved one is in police custody due to a specific incident.

The victim is also asked to pay for "associated bills/fines accrued as a result of the alleged incident." HRPS says "the funds requested can be in the form of a direct cash payment, bank transfers, various gift cards, and digital currency." Victims are usually told it’s a time-sensitive issue and that "nobody else knows." Due to the pressure and secrecy, victims often "don’t verify the caller’s story until after the money has been given to the fraudster."

Protect yourself with HRPS' tips:

  • If you suspect you are being contacted by a fraudster, call the HRPS at 905-825-4777 or 911 if it is an emergency
  • Attempt to verify the caller’s identity – do not volunteer any information, and further ask very specific probing questions about the caller.
  • Request to call back the initial caller – then independently find the number of the police service (or other purported agency in question) and call them directly to clarify the situation. If unsure, call your local police service and ask them for assistance. 
  • If you are at a bank, do not lie to the teller – tell them why you are retrieving the cash.  Employees are trained to assist you in recognizing possible frauds
  • Attempt to directly call the loved one in question and clarify the matter with them. 
  • Remember - Fraudsters will count on your good will to act quickly and help a loved one. Take your time and use above noted tips to protect yourself. 

Additional information on frauds and scams can be found here, or through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre's website.