Ontario police say 14 charged after 126 people lose money in 'grandparent scam'

TORONTO — Ontario Provincial Police say 14 alleged members of an organized gang are facing dozens of charges after 126 people from across Canada lost nearly $1 million in total in a so-called "grandparent scam."

OPP Det. Insp. Sean Chatland says the alleged scammers were impersonating judges, lawyers, and police officers on phone calls and leading their victims, many of whom were seniors, to believe their loved ones were in distress and urgently needed money for bail or other fees.

Chatland says the multi-jurisdictional investigation has found the victims were between 46 to 95 years old, live in places across Canada, but mostly in Ontario, and were scammed sometime between January and April 8.

Investigators say they traced phone calls to find the scammers, who were later arrested in Montreal, and police have laid 56 charges in total.

Chatland says police have been able to recover about $500,000 in losses after collaborating with financial institutions but they believe there are more victims who've lost thousands more because the fraud is under-reported.

Sûreté du Québec Deputy Director General Benoit Dubé says the "grandparent scam" should be a reminder for Canadians that it is crucial to resist pressure to act quickly when receiving a call or a message from someone asking for money or personal information without verifying the details.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2024.

The Canadian Press