2 Ontario women charged in Winnipeg grandparent scams that swindled 9 seniors out of $100K

·3 min read
Police are warning older people to beware of callers claiming to be family members and asking for money to help them get out of jail. (Liderina/Shutterstock - image credit)
Police are warning older people to beware of callers claiming to be family members and asking for money to help them get out of jail. (Liderina/Shutterstock - image credit)

Two Ontario women are facing a slew of charges after more than a dozen cases of what are commonly called "grandparent scams" were reported in Winnipeg, with roughly $100,000 in losses.

Winnipeg police warned residents in late July to be aware of an increase in such scams, where a fraudster calls an older person and claims to be a grandchild or other relative in serious legal trouble and in immediate need of money.

In the six days prior to that July 28 warning, police said there were 15 reports of the scams in the city.

On July 29, two women were arrested at a home on Sommerville Avenue, off Pembina Highway north of McGillivray Boulevard, Winnipeg police said in a Friday news release.

Police executed a search warrant at the home and found evidence linking the women — an 18-year-old from Toronto's North York region and a 25-year-old from Walpole Island in southwestern Ontario — to the offences, according to the news release.

Sgt. Trevor Thompson, who is with the police service's financial crimes unit, said he can't say what that evidence is, because it's part of an ongoing investigation.

Victims urged to come forward

Thompson said in the days after the arrests, the unit became aware of five more reports of the scam.

Police now allege that over a 10-day period, the women defrauded nine seniors of approximately $100,000.

"There were a number of instances where the fraud was attempted and for whatever reason, not followed through on, or the victims became aware of it and were able to avoid it from happening," Thompson said.

The two women, who police say didn't previously know the seniors they are accused of scamming, have been charged with numerous counts of fraud over $5,000, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, and possession of the proceeds of property obtained by crime over $5,000.

The 18-year-old was also charged with forgery and using a forged document.

Police will work to return the money to the seniors who were defrauded, Thompson said, but that will take time. Police are asking anyone who believes they have been scammed to come forward, he said.

"We would really urge anybody that believes they've been victimized in something like this or any other type of fraud to make a report to their local police agency. We can't do anything if we don't know about it."

Warning signs

Police say it's important to know several things to prevent this type of fraud from happening.

One is that police and the courts never send someone to a person's house to collect money, and would never tell anyone to lie to their bank about why they're withdrawing money — both hallmarks of grandparent scams.

The scammers will typically pressure people to act quickly before they have time to consider what they're agreeing to. It's important to talk to a trusted person before providing any personal information or money, especially if it is an unsolicited call, police say.

They also urge people to speak with their older relatives about the scam to protect them.