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A senior on the phone with a criminal lurking in the background
The Rockies.Life Staff

Grandparent Scam Prevention: Learning From One Calgary Senior’s Experience

Calgary senior Michael O'Reilly proves that with age comes wisdom as he skillfully thwarted a scammer's attempt to steal $6,000

Seniors are used to being told to get with the times, but Calgary senior Michael O’Reilly is all caught up. 

When his would-be nephew called a couple of weeks ago, he didn’t hesitate to dish out some tough love. 

O’Reilly’s nephew “Patrick” was none other than a scammer looking to make him a victim of the grandparent or loved one scams that have been conning seniors out of money for years. 

The grandparent scam involves scammers calling seniors and pretending to be a family member or loved one in need of money for bail or hospital expenses. 

In O’Reilly’s case, the scammer pretended to be his nephew and asked for bail money.

“I’ve been in a car crash, and I broke my nose, and that’s why you don’t recognize my voice. But I’m in jail, and I need some money. I just have to pay $6,000 to get released. So I was just calling to see if you could help me out in any way?” said the caller. 

O’Reilly was immediately suspicious and began recording the call. Next, he asked the caller why he was calling his uncle instead of his immediate family. 

The scammer said it was too embarrassing to call his family. In the call, O’Reilly frequently mentioned Patrick’s father’s name, Tom.

Eventually, the scammer asked for Tom’s number, which was the final nail in the scammer’s coffin. 

“You should know your dad’s number off by heart, for f*** sake. What’s wrong with ya?”  O’Reilly asked the scammer. 

When the scammer realized their plan had been foiled, they hung up, and O’Reilly’s suspicions were confirmed.

O’Reilly admits that the scam was convincing. 

He claims that the scammer sounded similar to what he imagined his nephew would sound like with a broken nose. 

O’Reilly successfully avoided being scammed out of $6,000, but the same can’t be said for many seniors in Alberta. 

Michael O'Reilly avoid a phone scam with quick thinking
Michael O’Reilly (right) | Global News

Tip To Avoid The Grandparent Scam

The scam that almost got O’Reilly was good but wasn’t perfect. For starters, bail and fines are usually paid at a courthouse, police station, or jail.

An infographic explaining the grandparent scam and how to avoid it | Canadian Bankers Association

The average bail cost in Alberta is also much lower than $6,000, with the average being somewhere between $10 and $500.

Sometimes, scammers can use artificial intelligence to mimic someone’s voice, making it much harder to identify a fake caller. 

One of the best ways to avoid being fooled is to call your family members or loved ones to verify a caller’s claims and identity. Families can also create a safe word or phrase that includes details only they would know. 

Scammers usually ask their victims to send money via a mobile payment app, e-transfer, or gift card purchase. 

A caller asking for money through gift cards is a dead giveaway since bail cannot be paid with gift cards. 

However, scammers are crafty and have more than one way to scam seniors. 

Sometimes, callers will send a “court-appointed” courier to a victim’s house to collect bail payments.

As of January, there have been more than 30 reported grandparent scams in Calgary, including 21 incidents in which almost $200,000 was stolen.

Only nine seniors realized they were being scammed. 

Across Canada, reports of grandparents and emergency scams increased by 40 percent from 2021 to 2022, costing seniors about $10,000,000. 

Seniors in Alberta are the cornerstones of our province for the knowledge and financial value they bring to their communities. 

Anyone who preys on our good-natured, hard-working, and compassionate seniors should feel ashamed. 

O’Reilly managed to avoid the grandparent scam, but most seniors aren’t as lucky. 

We are responsible for educating and protecting our seniors and ourselves from such horrible scams. 

Calgary senior Isabella Warmerdam who lost upwards of $10,000 through the grandparent scam  Tomasia DaSilva  Global News
Calgary senior Isabella Warmerdam who lost upwards of $10,000 through the grandparent scam | Tomasia DaSilva | Global News

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