Emergency Scams

Released: March 26, 2024 at 11:06 a.m.

Emergency scams prey on your fear of a loved one being hurt or in trouble. Scammers claim to be someone you know and tell you they need money immediately.

Scenarios they may use include:

  • Needing bail money because they've been arrested
  • Being in a car accident
  • Trouble returning from a foreign country

Reports are showing a new variation where fraudsters contact you via email or text message, claiming to be a loved one asking for a favour. For this favour, they'll ask you to send money or gift cards. 

Fraudsters will

  • Claim to be law enforcement officials, lawyers and impersonate the grandchild/family member
  • Use urgency and threats to convince you to take out money
  • Claim that there is a "gag order" preventing you from speaking about the situation
  • If you agree to pay the requested amount (cash or cryptocurrency), fraudsters will arrange to pick up the funds in person or will ask you to send cash in the mail 

Variation: Broken phone scam

The CAFC is getting reports about a fraudulent emergency text or social media message. The fraudster might claim to be a family member or loved one saying that their cellphone is broken or has been dropped in water. The fraudster will then provide an alternate phone number to contact them at. The fraudster will proceed to ask for a favor by requesting funds from the victim to repair the broken phone or to pay a bill.

Variation: Grandparent scams 

A senior gets a phone call, typically on their home phone/landline, from a caller claiming to be their grandchild or calling on behalf of their grandchild. They say they need money as soon as possible, whether to pay bail, lawyers’ fees, hospital fees, ambulance fees, etc. They will say the payment is needed immediately to avoid going to jail or to be released from jail.


These types of scams can target anyone, not just seniors or "grandparents".

How to protect yourself

  • If you receive a phone call claiming to be from a family member in an emergency situation, hang up the phone and contact them directly using a phone number you already have – not one provided by the suspected fraudster.
  • If the caller claims to be a law enforcement official, hang up and call your local police directly, using a phone number from a reputable source – not one provided by the suspected fraudster
  • Be suspicious of telephone calls that require you to immediately act and request money for a family member in distress
  • Listen to that inner voice that is screaming at you "This doesn't sound right"
  • It is important to know the Canadian Criminal Justice System does not allow for someone to be bailed out of jail with cash or cryptocurrency
  • Be careful what you post online
    • Scammers can get details that you shared on social media platforms and dating sites to target you or get names and details about your loved ones
  • Don't trust caller ID names and numbers.
    • Scammers use technology to disguise the actual number they are calling from and can make it appear as a trusted phone number, also known as spoofing 

To learn more about scams and what you can do to protect yourself go to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website

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