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Emergency scams yield big money

OPP are reminding you that emergency scams target vulnerable people and seniors by playing upon their emotions and rob them of their money.

Each year, emergency scam artists contact thousands of citizens and many people get scammed in their rush to help. Many victims are hesitant to say ‘no’ or to hang up on someone on the phone, which makes them easy targets for criminals to access substantial sums of money.

In 2014, five per cent of all complaints received by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre were victims of the “Emergency Scam” -- sometimes referred to as the “Grandparent Scam”. Of those 1,977 complaints, 737 people were identified as victims who reported a total loss of more than $2.4 million.

In the typical emergency scam, the victim will receive a frantic phone call from someone claiming to be a grandchild or loved one. The caller will explain that they are involved in some sort of mishap or are having trouble returning from a foreign country and need money right away.

Scammers know how to gather your personal information for criminal means.

They use phony social media accounts to find real names, real interests, real phone numbers and when you are going to be home or away.  They’ll even call in the middle of the night to take advantage of the confusion caused by awaking suddenly with the expectation its bad news at that hour.

Most of all, they rely upon the victim’s desire to help their loved ones, whatever the cost.

Be aware of some warning signs:

  • Urgency-- The scammer always makes the request sound very urgent, which may cause the victim to not verify the story.
  • Fear-- The scammer plays on the victim’s emotions by generating a sense of fear. For instance they may say, “I am scared and I need help from you.”
  • Secrecy-- The scammer pleads with the victim not to tell anyone about the situation, such as, “Please don’t tell Dad, he would be so mad.”
  • Request for Money Transfer-- Money is usually requested to be sent by a money transfer company such as Money Gram, Western Union or even through your own bank institution.

To avoid becoming a victim, police advise you to first check with another family member or trusted friend to verify the information BEFORE sending money or providing credit card information by phone or e-mail. It is vitally important that the incident be reported every time it occurs, to allow police to investigate and prevent others from becoming victims.

If you or someone you know may have been the victim of an ‘emergency’ scam, contact your local police service or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS)

“All consumers, regardless of age and gender, can take basic steps to protect themselves from becoming victims of fraud, such as never giving out personal information over the phone, the internet or social media.   Remember, if it is too good to be true...it probably is,” says Deputy Commissioner Scott TOD, OPP Investigations and Organized Crime Command.

Bay Today