How To Spot Heartstring Scams

The nastiest of con-artists and scammers target victims by pulling at their heartstrings or approaching them when they’re at their most vulnerable. A number of these scams are especially aimed at grandparents, the recently bereaved, lonely-hearted and charitable seniors. Make sure your money is going exactly where you intend by learning how to spot a heartstring scam and arm yourself against unscrupulous fraudsters before you find yourself broke and heartbroken.
June 17, 2014

Grandparent Scams: Scammers contact victims claiming to be a grand child in some sort of trouble. They ask the grandparent to send money and not to tell anyone.

Bereavement Scams: Scammers scour the obituaries and contact victims who recently lost a loved-one claiming the deceased had unpaid bills or debts that must be paid right away.

Funeral Scams: While most funeral homes run ethical businesses, some unscrupulous owners will take advantage of people in their time of grief and vastly overcharge for caskets, services or unnecessary items while the vicitm is vulnerable.

Sweetheart Scams: The scammer befriends the victim online or in person and expresses romantic interest. While romancing the victim and earning their trust, the scammer may gain access to personal and financial information. Sometimes the scammer will ask the victim for emergency loans to pay off a bill or their rent. When the scam is over, the vicitm is left broke and broken-hearted.

Charity Scams: Often in the wake of a catastrophe like a hurricane, flood or terrorist act, scammers will set up “relief funds” to help survivors and solicit donations from victims. The gift goes right into the scammer’s pocket and both the victims of the scam and of the catastrophe have lost their money.


  • Never wire money to anyone unless you have confirmed their identity. Have the mobile phone numbers of all of your children and grandchildren on file
  • Arrange to have a trusted family member or friend handle all financial matters in the days following the loss of a loved one
  • Plan and pay for your funeral in advance - but do your research and bring a friend with you 
  • Keep your personal and financial documents locked at home in a safe place - do not carry them with you and do not share them with anyone
  • Avoid lending money. If someone becomes angry because you’ve refused a loan, they may not have your best interest at heart.
  • Ensure your donations go only to recognized charities registered with Revenue Canada