Ottawa police are warning of a ‘grandparent scam’ in the area, in which a tearful person claiming to be a family member calls asking for money.

“Everyone thinks they won’t fall for a scam, but these fraudsters are incredibly convincing,” Sgt. Chantal Arsenault, an investigator with the Organized Fraud Unit, said in a news release.

“They are counting on the emotional factor to let down your guard. These aren’t simple tricks people are falling for, they are complex, well-planned scams.”

Police are reminding people to be vigilant when receiving calls for help from supposed family members.

How it works

The scenario for this scam usually involves a tearful phone call from someone claiming to be a family member. “

Their crying will make it difficult to understand what they are saying or to recognize the voice in order to get you to fill in the blanks as to who they are,” Arsenault said in the release.

The caller will say they have been arrested and they urgently need you to send money or gift cards for bail. There is urgency to the situation to prevent you from thinking too much about what they are asking for.

Bail hearings, of course, take place in court.

“If there is a financial penalty involved, it is not paid up front and definitely not by pre-paid gift cards or via transfer to someone’s bank account,” Arsenault said.

What to do if you get a ‘grandparent scam’ call

Police gave the following tips to avoid falling for the scam:

  • Never confirm any personal information over the phone.
  • Always verify who is calling. If it is a family member as they claim, tell them you will call them back and use the number you have for this person.
  • Don’t be pressured. Take some time to process what you have been told, to see if it makes sense. Ask a trusted friend or family member for their opinion.
  • If you’re in doubt, call your local police service.