Island police forces warn public of emergency scams

Fraud prevention workshop slated for February 6 in Little Current

MANITOULIN—Two residents of Manitoulin have been targeted by con artists using the family emergency scam and police are warning Islanders to be vigilant of would-be scammers who are using the made-up story of the plight of family members in trouble to get at their wallets.

The first event happened on Saturday, January 19 when the Manitoulin detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) received a report from a concerned resident who reported a fraud.

Police learned that the resident received a phone call from a male who was crying hysterically and pretending to be the victim’s grandson. He informed the senior citizen that he had been in a motor vehicle collision and needed money to pay for damages and avoid criminal charges. The grandfather was extremely upset and believed the caller was his grandson. The caller further told the victim that he was not to tell anyone about the situation or it would get worse. The victim received subsequent phone calls and provided funds totalling over $20,000 to a Quebec address.

Then, on Thursday, January 24, UCCM Anishnaabe Police was contacted regarding another scam. 

A First Nation resident received a phone call from a man claiming to be a lawyer working for the Quebec court system. The male caller advised that a family member had been criminally charged with respect to an automobile accident and was currently in custody. 

The con artist said that in order for the family member to be released from custody, they would need to send $8,000 immediately. The con man also advised that there was a non-disclosure order in place and the worried family member was instructed not to tell anyone about this matter. In this case, the person who had received the call was so worried that their family member was in serious trouble that they borrowed the $8,000 and were preparing to send it to the Quebec man claiming to be a lawyer. 

Thankfully, the resident had contacted the Manitoulin Legal Clinic and UCCM Police and further investigation revealed that this was another attempt to scam residents out of large sums of money.

The UCCM Police is reminding community members that scammers play on the emotions of the victims when they say that there is an urgent need to send money. Within the Canadian court system, it is not common practice for courts to request money over the phone or do any sort of money transfer. Police advise that if in fact there is a legitimate need to have money transferred for a bail release, the local police would more than likely be involved and meet face to face with the local family member or friend. 

Police ask residents that before they send any money to anyone in this sort of situation, the best safeguard is to call the local police service and discuss this with an officer. The police will be able to confirm if there is a legitimate need to send money. The OPP also suggests contacting other members of your immediate family.

“Modern, tech savvy scammers have personal information about you before they ever try to contact you,” a press release from the OPP states. “It is imperative to verify unsolicited contact before you respond and provide information. Keep your guard up when you receive a surprise call from anyone soliciting funds and who indicates that a loved one is in jail or has been in a serious incident.”

For further information about protecting yourself from scams, the public is invited to a fraud prevention seminar on Wednesday, February 6 from 10 am until 12 pm at the Little Current Library, 50 Meredith Street West.