Scammers target grandparents with distress calls

AI use increases sophistication of fraud attempts

Grandparents scammed by phone

The Houston RCMP is urging residents to be extra vigilant for phone scams now that skilled criminals are using artificial intelligence to hone their ability to defraud people of thousands of dollars.

Using artificial intelligence, criminals can now mimic the voices of family members in a bid to obtain money or personal information.

In particular, criminals employ what is known as the grandparent scam in which they try to convince grandparents that they are speaking to a grandchild who is in trouble and needs money right away.

Criminals then bank on the emotions of a grandparent listening to their “grandchild” speak of their troubles, said Sergeant Ryan Fillmore, the commanding officer of the Houston RCMP detachment.

“The grandparent scam has become so sophisticated even the most cautious person can fall victim,” he said.

High-pressure tactics add to the scam — in one variant, the scammer calls the victim and pretends to be their grandson who is jailed and requires immediate bail money. Other variants claim the “grandchild” has been in a car accident and needs to pay a hospital bill.

Fillmore said anyone with even the slightest doubt a phone call may not be legitimate should disconnect.

“I would add they can always call the detachment,” he said.

That phone scammer would prey on grandparents is especially troublesome, the sergeant continued.

More information is readily available from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

It suggests:

– not being afraid to say ‘no’ to a caller on the other end of a phone call.

– not being afraid to make calls of your own calls to determine whether the caller and his/her problem is legitimate or not.

– to never give personal, banking or credit card information to anyone who calls you over the phone, and never send cash in the mail.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre can be found at https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/scams-fraudes/emergency-urgence-eng.htm.