The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has tips on how to protect yourself from scams in which criminals are targeting elderly persons.
The grandparent or emergency scam has several iterations; however, it generally works like this … suspects will contact seniors or family members claiming that their grandchild or family member was in an accident, charged with an offence, or is in legal peril, such as impaired driving and drug offences or, in some cases, is ill.
Suspects will claim that they are law enforcement officials, lawyers and even impersonate the grandchild / family member. They will advise the victim that a payment for supposed bail, legal fees or fine is required immediately in order for the family member to avoid going to jail. If the victim agrees to pay the requested amount, suspects will ask the victim to send cash in the mail or through courier services.
This deeply concerning trend has suspects obtaining the victim’s address, and physically attending the residence to collect the funds, posing as a courier or representative of the court.
Between January 1, 2022 and August 31, 2022, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received over 13,293 grandparent or emergency scam reports from Ontario residents. 7,322 of these reports were classified as victims with total reported losses in excess of $118 million.
According to the CAFC, since November 2021, close to 55 individuals have been arrested across Canada as mules picking up cash at victim residences. Nearly 40 of the arrests have occurred in Ontario. In addition to the arrests in Canada, several cases across the United States have also resulted in the arrests of individuals picking up money in-person and that have shown connections back to Canada.
Warning Signs – How to protect yourself
- If you receive a suspicious phone call claiming to be from a family member in an emergency situation, hang up the phone and contact them directly.
- If the caller claims to be a law enforcement official, hang up and call your police directly.
- Listen to that inner voice that is screaming at you: “This doesn’t sound right”.
- Be careful what you post online. Scammers can use details shared on social media platforms and dating sites for targeting purposes. Suspects can easily gather names and details about your loved ones.
- Be suspicious of telephone calls that require you to immediately take action and request bail money for a family member in distress.
- Be careful with caller ID numbers that look familiar. Scammers use technology to disguise the actual number they are calling from (spoof) and make it appear as a trusted phone number.
If you know an elderly person, please reach out to them and have a conversation on what to do if they get a phone call like this.
If you do fall victim to a fraud or know someone who has, contact your local police service to report the crime and also report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC).
The CAFC collects information on fraud and identity theft Canada wide. Contact the CAFC by phone at 1-888-495-8501 or online by way of the Fraud Reporting System (FRS), even if a financial loss did not occur.
For more fraud facts and figures and a downloadable booklet (PDF), visit The Competition Bureau of Canada website at
Simpson,A/S R.,OPP Northumberland Detachment(2022,Oct.6) THE “GRANDPARENT OR EMERGENCY SCAM” IS PERVASIVE – AND HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF [media release]