Elderly Caledonia Couple Lose $20,000 to ‘Grandparent Scam’

1 June 2015

The “grandparent scam”, a form of phone scam in which criminals target the elderly by pretending to be their grandchildren calling them for help, has struck again in Caledonia. In this latest, truly tragic case, a couple in their 80s and 90s were defrauded out of approximately $20,000 by “grandparent scammers”.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, the couple called the police to their home on McKenzie Road in late May after discovering that they had been the victims of a scam. Provincial police say that the couple received the first call from the scammer about a week earlier.

The man on the other end of the line sounded desperate, saying he had been arrested after getting in a car crash and needed his “grandparents” to pay his bail. The couple didn’t doubt that it was actually their grandson calling and sent him money through a money transfer service.

This seems to have encouraged the man, who called back again four days later saying he needed money for medical expenses as a result of the crash. The couple agreed and sent him money to the Quebec address he gave them through a courier service. This time, he called back the very next day, and his story was that he needed money for the other driver’s funeral and would be charged with involuntary manslaughter if he didn’t produce the money. Again, the couple sent him the money they thought he needed.

They didn’t realize they were being scammed until they called their grandson themselves to follow up on everything that had been happening. The real grandson told them he hadn’t been arrested and that the previous calls had likely been fraudulent.

This news comes after a February warning from the Hamilton Police Crimes Against Seniors Unit that grandparent scams had been cropping up in the area again. The last time there was a large surge in this type of scam was in 2012, according to Detective Terri-Lynn Collings. She received six calls about grandparent scams in only a few weeks, and believed that the actual number of cases was probably much higher.

“Victims are very embarrassed about the whole thing,” she told the Hamilton Spectator, adding that most people don’t realize they’ve been scammed until after the initial confusing, emotional phone call. She said the scammers often talk so rapidly that the victim “doesn’t have time to think."

In the recent case in Caledonia, the couple was only asked to wire money, but in other similar incidents, seniors have been asked for their personal and banking information, which can lead to identity theft. The Ontario Provincial Police are warning residents to be cautious and check with other family members before sending money to anyone who requests it over the phone.

You can also help protect yourself against the effects of identity theft with a credit monitoring service that can alert you to certain types of activity in your credit file that could indicate fraud.