Though the “Emergency Scam” (or sometimes referred to as the “Grandparent Scam”) has been around for years, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre warns the public to be on alert after noting a marked increase in the number of complaints in the last two months.
In the typical scenario, a grandparent receives a phone call from a con-artist claiming to be one of his or her grandchildren. The caller goes on to say that they are in some kind of trouble and need money immediately. Typically they claim being in a car accident, trouble returning from a foreign country or they need bail money.
A typical call can go something like this:
Con-artist: Hi, Grandma/Grandpa.
Con-artist: Do you know who this is?
Victims don’t verify the story until after the money has been sent as the caller specifically asks that they do not want other relatives to know what has happened by asking “Can you please help me? I’m in jail (or in the hospital / or in some type of financial need). But don’t tell Dad. He would kill me if he found out, please send the money ASAP. I’m scared”
Wanting to help their grandchild, the victim sends money by a money transfer company such as Money Gram or Western Union.
Variations on the scam exist such as an old neighbour, a friend of the family etc. but predominantly the emergency scam is directed toward the Grandparents.
In 2007, 128 consumers reported this scam to the CAFC. From January to August 31st 2008, 317 complaints were reported to the Center with the majority reported (155 complaints) in July and August 2008.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (Phonebusters) was established in January 1993 and is jointly operated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Competition Bureau Canada.
The CAFC is a national call centre where victims can report fraud complaints. The information is used to assist in investigations.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre plays a key role in educating the public about specific fraudulent mass marketing and identity theft pitches. It also helps to prevent similar crimes from taking place in the future through its ability to identify emerging trends.