$2.2M lost in scam targeting Ontario residents, 14 people charged


Published April 18, 2024 at 12:05 pm

grandparent scam quebec ontario
Police charged 14 people in connection to a grandparent scam that targeted seniors with landline phones. (Photo: Ron Lach)

Police arrested 14 people in Montréal in connection to an organized emergency grandparent scam targeting seniors in Ontario and across Canada.

An investigation into an alleged organized crime group using the grandparents scam to defraud victims, primarily in Ontario, began in September 2022 and expanded in February 2023, the OPP said in a press release today (April 18).

Targeting seniors with a landline telephone, a group of people allegedly used the emergency grandparent scam pretending to be an officer or a lawyer, police said.

The caller would claim to have the victim’s grandchild or family member in custody and then would request bail money to secure the victim’s family member’s release.

In most cases, “money mules” (unsuspecting couriers) were used to collect the money, police added.

The victims were instructed not to speak to anyone due to a “gag order” they said was in effect.

Since February 2022, the group is suspected to be responsible for over $2.2 million in reported losses Canada-wide, police said. The $2.2 million is an estimate, which could be higher due to the fact that many victims don’t report these crimes, police clarified during the media conference.

From Jan. 22, 2024, to April 8, 2024, police identified 126 victims who lost approximately $739,000 to the organized crime group running the fraud.

Of these 126 victims, 15 were re-victimized multiple times losing more than $243,000. Investigators have worked with financial institutions and the Canadian Bankers Association to prevent or recover more than $559,000 in losses.

“Frauds can cause significant emotional and financial distress to the victims, and our officers remain steadfast in their mission to safeguard our communities,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns.

Though victims were located across Canada, the majority of the targeted individuals live in Ontario, with an age range of 46 to 95 years old, police said. All of the victims were provided support and fraud prevention material.

Police announced that 14 people were arrested and 56 charges were laid. All 14 people are Quebec residents, ranging from 24 to 36 years old, and they face various charges including organized crime, fraud, extortion and identity fraud.

Dubbed Project Sharp, this was a joint investigation involving the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch, the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch and 11 Ontario and Quebec police services in total.

Halton Regional Police, York Regional Police, Toronto Police, Hamilton Police, Peel Regional Police, Durham Regional Police and Ottawa Police were the Ontario police services involved in the investigation along with the OPP.

Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of the emergency grandparent scam or any fraud is urged to contact their local police, the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or ontariocrimestoppers.ca. You can also report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s online reporting system or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.

For resources on scams and fraud, visit antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.

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