Calgary police charged three people this month with fraud related to “grandparent” scams, including one who was caught in the act.
Investigators estimate more than $1.6 million in total has been stolen from about 122 Calgary seniors in connection with the scams.
In September, police received 93 reported scam attempts, of which 35 victims lost money to fraudsters.
Police say 29-year-old Sebastian Pulgarin Osorio has been charged with five counts of defrauding a person over $5,000, while 38-year-old Martina Kristal Valentini is facing two counts of the same charge and Nishaan Singh Sandhu was charged earlier this month.
Officers say it’s unclear whether or not the suspects are connected to each other, however, all three have been released on bail.
Police say “grandparent” scams involve fraudsters gathering details about their targets to appear as realistic as possible when attempting to scam them.
Scammers usually pretend to either be a relative, a police officer, or someone in the legal system such as a lawyer or bail bondsman and tell their victim that a loved one needs money.
The scammers then tell their target to go to a bank and withdraw thousands of dollars in cash, after which someone will come to their house to collect.
Police add one person was defrauded of nearly $300,000 in August.
“These unscrupulous scammers use personalized information to legitimize their claims, preying on the good will of seniors who will do anything to look after their family members. Any senior, not just those with cognitive concerns, can be victimized by these individuals. It is up to us as Calgarians, as employees in businesses or services in contact with seniors and as family members, to help educate the seniors in our lives about these scams,” said Calgary Police Staff-Sgt. Andrea Koolick.
Police would like to remind Calgarians:
Bail payments can only be paid in person at the courthouse or correctional centres and receipts will be issued.
Only Canadian currency, debit and credit cards are accepted as payment. Gift cards, e-transfers and cheques are not accepted.
Funds will never be transferred to other accounts.
In the vast majority of situations, the person needing bail will make phone calls themselves to secure bail, not police.
“When in doubt, verify the story you are being told by contacting the alleged family member directly or a third-party family member to help,” Calgary police said.