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Seniors scammers strike again
Another telephone scam targeting seniors has bilked a North Vancouver grandfather out of thousands of dollars, in what has become an increasingly common refrain on the North Shore.
And once again police are left with little or nothing to go on by way catching the thief or recouping the stolen money.
In the most recent case, what sounded like a heartfelt cry for help from the "niece" of an elderly North Vancouver man ended up netting an unknown fraudster $6000. And all it took were three phone calls.
On Jan. 29, the victim called police to say that during the previous week he received a phone call from a "niece" saying she was at a friend's wedding in Montreal. She told her "uncle" that she had been in a car accident and was arrested for impaired driving. The female fraudster convinced the man that criminal charges against her would be dropped if he sent her $2,500 to cover the cost of the damage to the other vehicle. The man complied, sending the money via a Western Union money transfer.
The next day, the man got another call from the 'phony' niece asking for an additional $2,000 to pay for lawyer fees. Again, the North Van senior complied.
The woman called a third time on the day after to ask for $1,500 to cover return airfare to Vancouver for her and her friend as said they had missed their original flight home and were stranded. Once again, the money was sent right away.
Only after the North Van man consulted with his family about the well-being of the alleged niece did he discover he'd been defrauded of $6,000.
North Vancouver RCMP spokesman Cpl. Richard De Jong advised residents to check their call display if they're suspicious of where a phone call is coming from.
"There was a call display number that we're following up on. The area code didn't match Montreal," De Jong said. It didn't match anything locally, either, he added, noting the calls — while all from the same number — appeared to have been rendered through an automated switchboard to cover the perpetrator's tracks.
De Jong said the latest victim may have been targeted rather than prey to a so-called "phishing" scam wherein hundreds or even thousands of random fraudulent phone calls are sent out, as no other complaints of this specific scam had yet come in to police.
"With Facebook and social media these days, we always caution people to be wary of putting their personal information out there because if you put your travel plans out there on Facebook or whatever — this gentleman could have had a niece who was travelling in Quebec and how would he know exactly what situation she'd got herself into?"
De Jong said he didn't know explicitly if Facebook was used by the fraudster in this case, but added "often you wonder how these people come up with that kind of information."
There have been more than a dozen reported cases of phone scams targeting seniors on the North Shore in the past year and De Jong said there are likely many more victims who never come forward out of embarrassment.