Police warning about scams focusing on seniors in Montreal

Montreal police are warning seniors to watch out for scam artists after a 93-year-old woman was defrauded twice out of $10,000.

Police recently arrested two people in connection with the so-called grandparent scam. It’s been going on for years, and police say people are still falling for it.

“In this specific case, a suspect called the victim, they usually claim to be a family member or police officer helping a family member in distress,” said Montreal police Lt. Lynne Labelle.

The scammer creates stress by crying and saying they need the money quickly.

They do it “to gain the confidence in the victim and play on their emotions of the victim, trying to get a large sum of money,” said Labelle.

In this case, the elderly victim finally reported it to police after the second incident — so when the third call came, police moved in.

“In our station, since June 2022, we’ve had seven different operations. Four of them were successful and we arrested eight individuals with the help of our economic crime section,” said Labelle

The suspects are charged with fraud. Police say they were the ones collecting the money, but add they were part of a much larger criminal network there.

FADOQ, the largest seniors’ organization in Canada, has some useful tips on its site senioraware.ca, to raise awareness of fraud, abuse, and bullying against the elderly.

Be suspicious right away on the phone, said FADOQ chair Gisèle Tassé-Goodman. Never give a name and ask questions to confirm information.

“Never give a name and if you don’t know the person, just hang up. You don’t need to go further with the conversation,” said Tasse-Goodman.

In 2020, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center received 11,447 reports from Canadian seniors, representing losses of more than $31.8 million — an understatement, because FADOQ says grandparent scams are underreported.

“The most important thing is to report the situation to the authorities,” said Tasse-Goodman. “We know it’s not always reported, and it’s a way to start the legal process but also to prevent the alleged scammer from trying again with another victim.”

The fraudsters call on landlines and police say victims rarely get their money back.

“These victims are usually going to have a sense of fear, discouragement, shame, that they listened to the fraudster and gave the money away,” said Labelle.

Police have visited West Island banks, reminding tellers to watch out for large cash withdrawals, because criminals often coach their victims on what to say at the bank in order to get the cash quickly.

Police say the best defense against this scam is awareness.

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