Money Returned in Grandparent Scam

Patrick D Costa

Toronto Police returned money to an 87-year-old victim of a fraud after arresting a man who defrauded her once of $10,000 and attempted to squeeze another $11,000 from the victim last year, over the course of a few days.

On the morning of January 28, 2022, the victim – who resides in a long-term care centre – received a call from a person purporting to be ‘Constable Henderson’ who asked if she had a grandson by the name of David (name changed to protect privacy).

The victim does have a grandson David, in his 20s.

The accused advised the victim that her grandson was arrested with a large quantity of narcotics that was in his car. He advised her that $10,000 bail was needed for him to be released from police custody.

The victim attended two different bank branches, collected $10,000 and called the accuser who advised her a ‘court courier’ was at the front lobby to collect the funds. She was also told to use a password with the courier before handing over the money.

The next day, the accused contacted the victim again, advising he would be in touch on Monday to follow up with her. As promised, he called again Monday noting she should prepare for another call in an hour after a judge makes a decision on the case.

Just after 11 a.m., the accused called the victim, telling her a further $11,000 was needed for her grandson’s release.

Now suspecting something was wrong, she reached out to her grandson who confirmed he was not in trouble with the law.

The grandson called the Toronto Police non-emergency line at 416-808-2222 to report the initial fraud and second attempt at fraud.

A Communications Operator reached out to Financial Crimes Detective Constable Ella Bhardwaj directly because she had been investigating other similar cases.

“Unfortunately, this happens all too frequently,” said Bhardwaj, noting that since 2021, there have been over 200 victims and over $1 million in losses in Toronto alone. She works with financial crimes investigators across other Ontario police jurisdictions who report similar trends.

“They are scripted and highly organized. They put such urgency in their messages to victims, that money is needed right away by authorities,” she said. “These grandparents all felt they needed to do something for their grandchild who was in trouble. They also grew up having respect and trust in police, which lends legitimacy to the scam.”

Bhardwaj immediately contacted the victim and learned about the upcoming payment, hatching a plan with other plainclothes officers to attend the long-term care centre to intercept the man.

Just after 3 p.m., the suspect contacted the complainant and directed her to attend the front lobby and hand over the envelope containing cash to the courier, using the same password he had in the past: “Nelson.”

Police observed the suspect walk directly to the victim and identify her verbally by asking her name. He was arrested shortly after taking the fake package of money.

A year later, the suspect admitted guilt and made a plea agreement to return $5,000 to the victim.

Bhardwaj said that she was happy to help return some money to the victim in this case but said the stress, embarrassment and loss of trust that these seniors face after such a scam can’t be easily fixed.

Inspector Joe Matys said this is a great example of community engagement.

“Financial Crimes conducted fraud education seminars, engaged with the community and the community responded by reporting this fraud to us,” he pointed out. “Detective Constable Bhardwaj and the investigative team she put together should be commended for their persistence and compassion. She felt rewarded by being able to present a restitution cheque to the victim. It was a great work by all of the investigators at Financial Crimes.”

The financial implications are also great for seniors who are living on fixed incomes.

Bhardwaj urges families to talk to the seniors in their lives to make them aware of these scams and that no law enforcement agency will make demands of payments.

Common stories include the grandchild being:

  • Arrested and need bail money

  • Hospitalized and need to pay a bill

  • Involved in traffic collision

  • Stuck in a foreign country

  • Jailed and got into a fight

Police ask seniors to never arrange for payments and speak with family members immediately when confronted by a similar call.

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