Edmonton-area seniors are handing out thousands of dollars to fraudsters who trick them into thinking they are their grandchildren who need bail money to get out of jail, said Edmonton police.

In all of the cases, city cops say a man calls his victims over the phone, claiming to be their grandson while demanding wire money transfers for several thousand dollars.

An elderly woman from the Leduc area fell victim to the scam and was defrauded out of $9,000, police said.

Investigators also believe there are other victims in the western United States and two seniors in Gravenhurst, Ont., who have been duped into sending thousands of dollars to Edmonton.

“Most of these are just random calls and what they will do is they’ll say, ‘Hi grandma, this is your favourite grandson calling,’” said Det. Mark Johnson with the police service’s economic crime division.

“They will ask, ‘Do you know who this is?’ hoping they will identify the grandson.”

Johnson said the thieves are getting smarter by “doing their research over the Internet” to find out who their victims’ grandsons or granddaughters are.

“They can get everything from seniors’ residences over the Internet, and if they are listed in the phone book, they can get names and do research based on the names,” said Johnson.

The fraudsters use fake identification to collect the cash, and once it is transferred, it’s hard for police to track it down, said the detective.

Clayton Sach, a retired Edmonton police officer, said his 91-year-old mother was duped into sending $5,000 through a wire transfer last week.

Sach said someone called his mother, claiming that he was his son who confessed that Sach was charged with drunk driving and he needed bail money to get him out of jail.

“He said, ‘Don’t tell anybody,’” said Sach. “He sounded so distraught that my mother couldn’t recognize the voice.”

Johnson said the crime has been happening since 2007 and roughly 130 complaints have been made to Phone Busters.

He advised seniors to be suspicious when asked for money over the phone.

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