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December 14, 2021

Help, grandma! I'm in big trouble.

Last week, colleague Jason Buckland highlighted several holiday scams making the rounds. Now police are warning of a particularly mean spirited racket targeting seniors across the country.

The scam involves older people getting calls from a supposed grandchild, usually from outside the city or province, saying he or she’s been in an accident or is in trouble with the police and needs bail money – which grandma is asked to wire as quickly as possible.

The con artists posing as the grandchild usually say something like, “It’s me, your favourite grandchild,” and let trusting grandparents fill in the blanks.

The caller usually implores the victims not to contact mom and dad, police say, instead giving them a bogus number to call for verification, supposedly either a lawyer's office or the desk sergeant at the police station. The cheat at the other end then closes the deal, confirming the arrest and offering instructions for transferring the money.

Across Canada, 356 complaints have been made to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre so far this year, with 108 people reporting they were victimized and lost more than $370,000. 

To guard against this type of scam, Phone Busters recommends:

- Getting the name of the apparent lawyer and contacting them directly using the numbers listed in the phone book or on a web page, not the number provided by the caller.

- Contacting area police and, if you have call display, writing down the caller's number and providing it when reporting the incident.

- Contacting the family members directly themselves for verification that the "grandchild" is in the reported area to begin with.

Do you know any seniors who've been hoodwinked this way? 

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...