A new twist on a scam targeting grandparents has Winnipeg police warning the public to be alert and trust their gut when answering the phone.
It starts with a panicked call to an elderly person. The voice on the line claims to be a grandchild or a family member who has landed in serious legal trouble, is in jail and needs money immediately. They may be crying, pleading for help, demanding that you send bail money, but the voice is not who you think it is – police warn it’s a scammer.
Winnipeg police call it the ‘Grandparent Scam’.
“This is a scam that just keeps rearing its head. It keeps coming back,” said Const. Jay Murray, a public information officer with the Winnipeg Police Service. “Our investigators have noticed that there’s been an increase recently.”
A NEW TWIST
Murray said there is a ‘new twist’ to the scam – the scammers will use in-person couriers to physically get the money from the elderly victims.
He said the victims are told to go to the bank and withdraw money from their bank, telling the bank it is for home repairs, and then return home.
“Under the guise of a bail bonds person or something to that effect, a person will physically come to the house and pick up that cash,” he said. “Previously, it was a lot different. It was more remote. But now having people physically come to the house is something new.”
Murray said typically the initial caller operates outside the province, or even the continent – but this latest spin on the scam has given police an investigative opportunity.
“Sometimes these individuals have cameras on their house or a doorbell camera. So having people come to the house certainly changes the way we investigate this and it can be beneficial in some ways,” he said. “We have made arrests of couriers in the past, we continue to investigate it.”
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Murray said investigators have noted more and more people are catching on about these scams and are reporting them. However police are concerned there are people who don’t report the scam if they have fallen victim to it.
He said the fact that scammers are still hitting Winnipeg residents means the scam is still working.
“One of the best ways that we can combat this scam is just awareness,” he said.
Police said officers and the courts will never send someone to your house to collect money, and will never tell you to lie to your bank about withdrawing money.
“We really ask people just to trust their guts when it comes to answering calls,” Murray said. “Take a moment and really just assess the situation. There’s nothing wrong with hanging up and calling somebody who’s maybe related to that family member.”
Police are urging people to share the information with elderly relatives so they are aware and can be prepared if they get this kind of call.
Anyone who receives a ‘Grandparent Scam’ call should contact police immediately.
More information about the scam can be found online.