Calgary police warn of ‘sextortion,’ lay charges in ‘grandparent scams’

Calgary police are warning parents, caregivers and teens about an online sextortion scam targeting mostly teenage boys.

Calgary police are out with a warning about what they call “sextortion” scams that mostly targets teenage boys.

Officers say they’ve received 48 reports of “sextortion” scams since the beginning of the year, and are encouraging parents and caregivers to teach their children about online safety.

Police say “sextortion” is a form of blackmail where online scammers pose as a potential romantic partner and try to establish a connection with their victims. Once the scammer has gained the trust of their victim, they often ask for intimate photos of them to use as blackmail. This usually involves the scammer threatening to share the intimate photo of them online, specifically with the victim’s friends, unless the victim gives the scammer money.

Investigators say in most cases scammers will pretend to be a young woman and privately message their targets on Instagram or Snapchat.

“We believe these crimes are vastly underreported,” says S. Sgt. Graeme Smiley with the Calgary Police Service (CPS). “We are thankful for the courageous victims who have come forward and encourage others who believe they have been victimized to do the same. We are asking parents and caregivers to have honest conversations with their children about online safety and how to seek help if kids find themselves in dangerous situations.”

Investigators stress that it is “illegal for anyone to solicit, send or consume sexually explicit images or video footage of minors.”

Police add online scammers often live in different cities and countries — making the crimes difficult to investigate — but it’s still important for victims to report these types of crimes to police so trends can be tracked and other potential victims can be warned.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of sexual exploitation can report it to police by calling the non-emergency number at 403-266-1234, or 9-1-1 if they are in immediate danger. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.


Meanwhile, Calgary police have laid 10 charges against a man who allegedly defrauded several Calgary seniors out of thousands of dollars over four months in what’s known as the “grandparent scam.”

Officers say the “grandparent scam” involves scammers pretending to be the grandchildren of their elderly victims and claiming they need money because they are in trouble. This usually entails the scammers feigning they have been arrested and need bail money.

Police say in other cases, scammers have posed as members of government or law enforcement looking to collect bail payments.

Investigators say they spoke with several victims who “courageously came forward to report their experience” with a man allegedly posing as a court-appointed courier.

Officers say the scams ran between February and April, when the alleged fraudsters would show up at victims’ homes to collect thousands of dollars. In April alone, police say 20 “grandparent scams” reported to police defrauded victims of just under $200,000.

Police identified a 38-year-old man after reviewing CCTV footage and speaking with witnesses and charged him with seven counts of fraud over $5,000, three counts of using a stolen credit card and one count of possession of a controlled substance. He is scheduled in court on Wednesday June 8.

Police are now appealing for any other witnesses or victims to come forward.

“We are asking anyone who has been approached by an unknown person asking for bail payment to report it to police,” says S. Sgt. Mark Auger with CPS. “These fraudsters are clever and convincing, and they prey on people’s generosity and trustworthiness. We’re encouraging citizens to be diligent in verifying people’s identity before handing over any form of payment. Oftentimes talking about the situation with family members and close friends helps bring the truth to light.”

Police say they under no circumstances will ever collect bail money from citizens over the phone and share these tips on how to avoid becoming the victim of such a scam:

  • Bail payments can only be paid in person at the courthouse or correctional centres, and receipts will be issued.
  • Only Canadian currency, debit and credit cards are accepted as payment. Gift cards, e-transfers and cheques are not accepted.
  • Funds will never be transferred to other accounts.
  • In the vast majority of situations, the person needing bail will make phone calls themselves to secure bail, not police.

For more information about “grandparent scams” you can visit the Calgary Police Service website.

Anyone with information about similar incidents is asked to contact police by calling 403-266-1234. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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