February 25th 2011
We’re happy to report that Ontario’s Halton Regional Police announced several arrests in relation to a cross-boarder telephone fraud known as the “Grandson Scam”, or “Emergency Scam”.
In this scam, the fraudster telephones an elderly person and pretends to be a relative, often a grandchild. They tell the victim that they are on vacation away from home, have been arrested by police, and need money in order to be released from jail. A second person will then talk to the victim, claiming to be a lawyer or police officer and give the victim instructions on how much money to send and where the money should be sent.
The scammer promises to pay the grandparent back as soon as they are out of trouble, and also pleads with the victim not to tell anyone else in the family due to embarrassment or fear of getting into further trouble with relatives. By the time the grandparent speaks to a family member about the incident, and discovers that the story is false, the money has already been picked up by the fraudsters.
The dollar figure losses connected to the Emergency Scam are astounding. Police estimate that since November 2010, this particular operation alone has been responsible for an estimated $3 Million in fraudulent takings. The perpetrators were making an average of 200 calls per day, successfully targeting 15 to 20 victims and defrauding them of between $2,500 to $6,000 each.
“The Emergency Scam targets seniors, one of our most vulnerable populations, and cruelly plays upon their emotions to bilk them out of thousands of dollars,” said Chief Gary Crowell of the Halton Regional Police Service. “To compound matters, it is estimated that less than five percent of victims report this crime to police, because many of them feel embarrassed that they were tricked by these criminals.”
The Halton Regional Police Service urges people to speak to their elderly family members in mind the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of this scam:
• If someone calls claiming to be a relative, ask them to identify themselves first – do not volunteer names or any other information.
• In some cases, the fraudster will have obtained the first name of a grandchild through a social networking site, obituary or other published information. To further verify their identity, ask them a personal question only your grandchild could answer such as the full names and dates of birth of their parents or siblings.
• Ask the caller for a call back number. This gives you time to verify their story. Be very suspicious if the caller refuses.
• Speak to another family member about the matter to confirm the facts before deciding whether or not to provide assistance.
Watch out for Bogus Emails at Tax Time
Nothing might get your attention more than an email from the Tax Man telling you that the Government owes you some money… or worse, that you owe them. With tax filing day around the corner, scammers are looking to steal your Social Insurance Number and Birth Date, through a new Phishing scam. Phishing email messages are designed to steal your identity. They ask for personal data, or direct you to websites or phone numbers to call where they ask you to provide personal data. A few clues can help you spot fraudulent email messages or links within them.
• They might appear to come from your bank or financial institution, a company you regularly do business with, such as Microsoft, or from your social networking site.
• They might appear to be from someone you in your email address book.
• They might ask you to make a phone call. Phone phishing scams direct you to call a phone number where a person or an audio response unit waits to take your account number, personal identification number, password, or other valuable personal data.
• They might include official-looking logos and other identifying information taken directly from legitimate websites, and they might include convincing details about your personal history that scammers found on your social networking pages.
• They might include links to spoofed websites where you are asked to enter personal information.
Take a look at this phony but realistic web page posted by scammers asking for your SIN, to “verify” your information so that you can collect your overpayment to CRA.