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14 emergency grandparent scammers charged

A photo of an OPP logo. (File image) A photo of an OPP logo. (File image)
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Fourteen individuals in Montréal linked to the emergency grandparent scam that targeted victims across Canada, most of whom lived in Ontario, have been arrested.

In September 2022, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Anti-Rackets Branch began an intelligence probe into a group involved in the fraud.

In February 2023, the probe was formalized as an OPP Criminal Investigation Branch-led joint forces operation known as Project Sharp, and consisted of 11 Ontario and Quebec police services in total.

"Our dedicated officers tirelessly pursued justice in this complex investigation by working diligently to investigate, disrupt and dismantle the criminal organization targeting vulnerable individuals across the country," said OPP Deputy Commissioner Marty Kearns. "Frauds can cause significant emotional and financial distress to the victims, and our officers remain steadfast in their mission to safeguard our communities."

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.

Aimed at seniors with a landline telephone, the group using the emergency grandparent scam pretended to be an officer or a lawyer. It claimed to have the victim's grandchild or family member in custody. They would request bail money to secure the victim's family member's release.

In most cases, money mules or unsuspecting couriers were used to collect the money. The victims were instructed not to speak to anyone due to a 'gag order' they said was in effect. Since February 2022, the group of suspects has been responsible for over $2.2 million in reported losses Canada-wide.

This year, from January 22 to April 8, 126 identified victims 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.

As a result of the investigation, 14 individuals were arrested, and 56 charges were laid.

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). You can also report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre's online reporting system or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.

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