“Phone a friend” to prevent seniors scams from Oshawa to Pickering – DRPS


Published June 15, 2022 at 1:42 pm

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Durham Regional Police say residents should “phone a friend” to talk to the seniors they love about a ongoing rash of scams targeting the Region’s elderly.

DRPS has long warned residents of so-called grandparent scams. These confidence schemes target the elderly across Canada and have defrauded Durham residents of tens of thousands of dollars in just the last year.

In effort to prevent these scams DRPS is encouraging a “phone a friend” campaign to get people to warn their relatives of such schemes and open the channel for them to report suspicious call and visits.

The police are especially appealing to social media users to reach out to loved ones who do not use site like Facebook or Twitter to ensure they too are aware of the campaign.

The goal of the Phone a Friend initiative is to make sure potential fraud victims, particularly seniors, reach out and report any fraud attempts when they feel unsure of intimidated.

Police say such scams, especially those targeting seniors are on the rise of late. Generally older people are targets because they are home during the day, the have the money fraudsters are after, and they are more likely to trust authority figures.

There are several methods these fraudsters use to exploit seniors in the community. Often the conman will call pretending to be a debt collection agent. In these kinds of scams the criminal often poses as lawyer, a police officer or a government worker after money they are “owed.”

Often, in the aforementioned “grandparent” scams the con artist will poses as the victims grandchild or loved one and profess to be in trouble. Often this involves a plea for “bail money” following a false arrest. This method has been used frequently across the Region in recent months, prompting numerous warnings from DRPS.

In a romance scam, the swindler will pose as an interested party often through dating sites and apps. They will string the victims along for some time and then ask for a “loan.” In many cases the excuse for this “loan” is to cover moving costs to come to Canada.

In April 2021, a Whitby man was arrested for allegedly defrauding a woman of $340,000 this way by posing as a combat veteran looking to immigrate to Canada.

Many scams do not pursue money directly, but seek the information that will allow them access to a victim’s funds. They will try to get their hands on account information, PINs, credit card details or social insurance numbers.

Another frequent scheme is the “lottery fraud.” In these instances, the con artists pretends to reach out with congratulations for winning a lottery draw. They will claim the victim needs to pay fees before the non-existent winnings are released.

More often than not the victim hasn’t even bought a ticket. In many cases the scammer will pretend to be from another country.

An elderly couple lost $1.2 million this way back in March to a swindler purportedly representing a United States lottery. After this case, Durham police released a warning about this method.

They reminded people at the time that most lotteries require the winner to live in the area. An Ontario resident is typically ineligible to win American or British lotteries for example.

Durham Police offered some advice on how protect one’s pocket book from would-be con artists. Firstly they tell residents to never open the door to someone they don’t know.

Con artists can get very aggressive and pushy to get at funds so it’s best not to give them the opportunity to intimidate at all. Police say stay behind the door’s peephole, or chain when engaging with a stranger.

Next they advise everyone to end any conversations that turns to threats of intimidation. After the meeting, think long and hard about what you’ve just heard before doing anything with your money.

Thirdly police advise reaching out to a trusted person if you remain unsure about what is going on. Someone saying not to tell anyone about the request for money is a “red flag” per police. If someone is pressuring for quick, thoughtless action remember “Speed is Greed.”

Additionally, officers say “Police, bailiff or government officials will NEVER attend your home or call you to collect money; and they will never have you wire money, use gift cards or deposit directly into a bank account.”

One should establish a safe word with family to use in emergencies. This will ensure any request for help is genuinely from a family member and not someone posing as one.

“Tell seniors to phone a friend! If it seems too good to be true or if you feel at all intimidated, call someone you trust. #PhoneAFriend,” Police said.

Any fraud victims can report the crime to Durham Regional Police at 1-888-579-1520.

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