Beware the ‘grandparent scam’

Released: March 13, 2024 at 9:31 a.m.

Reposted from the March 13, 2024 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press Community Review.  

There’s recently been a significant rise in the ‘grandparent scam’ victimizing senior citizens across Canada.

What is the ‘grandparent scam’? It typically involves an unknown person (the fraud actor) targeting and then contacting a senior (the grandparent) by phone during the day, usually from a random or unknown phone number. The fraud actor pretends to be a grandchild and indicates that they are in some kind of “immediate danger.” This can be anything from having COVID-19 and being stuck at home all the way to being arrested by the police for having a gun or drugs in their vehicle. The fraud actor will attempt to create a sense of urgency with the grandparent in the hope of eliciting an emotional response and will often tell the senior not to tell anyone else in the family about what is occurring. They will often say there is a “gag order” in place. It works because family members, especially grandparents, want to help their grandchildren in any way they can.

The fraud actor will attempt to convince the grandparent that they need money in a hurry. Some have even gone as far as ordering taxis to take the grandparent to the bank if they no longer drive. The fraud actors will then later arrange to have a courier go to the grandparent’s home to obtain the funds. The courier may be a scammer — or another victim of the scam.

As a result of grandparent scams, victimized seniors lost over than $9.2 million in 2022. In Manitoba, this loss was over $313,000.

There are several things you can do to protect yourself:

• If you do not recognize the phone number calling you, let it go to voicemail;

• If someone calls you and to rush you into taking quick action, tell them you will call them back and hang up. Then call a trusted family member;

• Last, rest assured that police will never ask you for money directly to “bail out” a loved one. The bail process is done through the court system and requires you to attend the courthouse;

• When in doubt, just hang up!

If you believe you have been victimized by a grandparent scam, contact the Winnipeg Police Service non-emergency line at 204-986-6222 to make your report, or submit it online at

For more information on warning signs or how to protect yourself, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website at

— Submitted by WPS Financial Crimes Unit

Winnipeg Police Service

Fraud Awareness Month

March is Fraud Prevention Month, so the Free Press Community Review is running stories from the Winnipeg Police Service on its annual campaign to help you recognize, report and reject fraud.

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