Protecting seniors against “the grandparent scam"

The grandparent scam

October 2021 The Wise Owls program is supported by the RCMP & Alberta Provincial Rural Crime Watch Association, and it aims to educate seniors and help them protect themselves against fraud and scams. The program gives an overview of many common scams and frauds, along with information on how to protect your personal information. Seniors gain the necessary tools to recognize a scam, who to talk to, how to report it and where to go for more information. We provide fraud awareness education for seniors.


The “grandparent scam” is a malicious trick that is used by criminals when they set their sights on seniors with grandchildren. While the senior population grows, so does their vulnerability to financial fraud. Seniors are targeted for a variety of reasons, they have more available finances, they can be very trusting, they are eager to help someone in need, they are retired which can create more free time, and they may not be as tech-savvy making them vulnerable to fraudsters. How the scam works

This type of scam can vary, but in general, this is how it works:

  • A senior will receive a phone call from someone who starts the conversation with, “Grandma? Do you know who this is?”
  • The victim, thinking it’s one of their grandchildren, will respond with, “Yes, I know it’s you (name of the grandchild).” The caller will then start using this name to gain credibility with the victim.
  • The caller will claim to be in trouble and will request money right away. Sometimes they’ll say they were in a car accident with a rental car, or they are under arrest and in jail in another city or country. The “grandchild” will tell the victim he doesn’t want his parents to know and ask the victim to keep it a secret.
  • To make the story seem more credible, the caller might also put another person on the phone to act like a police officer, bail bondsman, or lawyer.
  • The victim, wanting to help, will withdraw funds from their bank account and wire money to the “grandchild”. The money will be sent through a money transfer service, such as Western Union or MoneyGram, where the criminal can then pick it up at any location across the world.

How you can protect yourself

  • Seniors can protect themselves from this type of scam by never offering information to the caller.
  • Don’t give details about your family or the names of your grandchildren, ask the caller for details.
  • Ask for details on specific locations, ask for them to repeat the story, the criminal will have a hard time recalling details on the spot.
  • Ask the caller a few personal questions that a real grandchild could answer but an imposter could not.
  • After you hang up, verify the story by calling the parents or other relatives of the “grandchild.”
  • Never wire money to someone under uncertain conditions. It is nearly impossible to recover or trace money that has been wired.
  • Never provide your credit card number over the telephone or Internet unless you are sure about who you’re giving it to.

What should you do if you are a victim of fraud or a scam?

Never be embarrassed if you think you are the victim of a scam. Reporting is crucial to help prevent others from becoming victims. If you do not report, law enforcement does not have the information they need to prevent the crime from happening again or to pursue the criminals responsible. Report scams and frauds by calling the police on the non-emergency line. (*NOT 911*)

Friendly Reminders

Report crime online!

The RCMP are encouraging all Albertans to report eligible crimes online (select property crimes under $5,000). Reporting less serious crimes online helps emergency dispatch and frontline members focus their time on high-priority calls. It provides a convenient way to share photos to the RCMP as well. These reports assist in crime analysis, aid in establishing trends and patterns, and ultimately leads investigators to the chronic offenders. It also assists in making decisions about how and where to deploy resources. Crimes reported online will be taken just as seriously as crime reported in any other way.  

Help reduce crime, report online! #ReportSmart

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October 28, 2021