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Protect yourself from the grandparent scam

May 23, 2023

If a family member calls you in a panic asking for help, your first instinct may be to respond immediately. And that’s what makes the grandparent scam so tricky to recognize. Scammers will use any leverage to separate you from your money, including exploiting your love for your family.

- Hi Grandma! How’s it going?

- Will? Alex?

- Yeah, it’s Alex. Listen, Grams, I’m in a bit of a jam.

The fake Alex tells Grams that he hit someone with his car and he’s at the police station. His bail has been set at $4,000 and he needs her credit card number. Of course, he promises to pay her back once he’s out of this mess.

What happened to Elsie

This is what happened to Jonathan Ducharme’s* mother—Alex’s* grandmother—Elsie.* She was an 81-year-old woman, living in Montmagny, and someone was trying to scam her. Thanks to the attentiveness of the staff at her caisse, she didn’t fall for it, but it came close.

Luckily, Elsie didn’t have a credit card so the scammer asked if she could pull out the money and wire it to him in Lévis.

“He had an answer to every question my mom asked,” recounts Ducharme. He said his voice sounded off because his nose was hurt in the accident. The reason he called her was because he couldn’t reach anyone else and he knew he could count on her to keep a secret.

Elsie headed out to the caisse immediately, along with her sister-in-law, who was with her when she got the call. Incredibly, the scammer had the nerve to call back as they were en route!

When they arrived, staff noticed how nervous they were. That, coupled with how much money Elsie was taking out, made them suspect that something was going on.

Her advisor brought her to her office to make her feel more comfortable. Then she asked what was going on. Once she heard the whole story, the advisor called Elsie’s son and found out that Alex was safe and sound at home. At this point, Elsie realized that she was the intended victim of a scam.

4 things you can do to avoid fraud

  1. Be wary of urgent unexpected requests, especially when somebody's asking you to transfer money to a loved one in distress. 
  2. If a family member calls you asking for money, ask them questions only they’d know the answers to or have them talk about a specific memory between the two of you.
  3. Ask them to call you back in 10 minutes. This will give you some time to calm down and check with other family members. Even if the caller told you not to tell anyone about their predicament, you can always check with someone you trust.
  4. Never give your credit card number to someone you didn’t call. And never feel bad about just hanging up if anything feels off.

Reporting matters!

If you think you may have been targeted by a scammer, report it to the police and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

Feel free to speak to an advisor if you want more information on the fraud prevention resources Desjardins offers.

To learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and detect and report different kinds of fraud, check out our Security webpage.

* Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our members.