“Emergency scam" or "Grandparent scam," is back, this time in the Okanagan Country
Scheme flashed 48 fraud complaints to the B.C. Better Business Bureau in 2009.
A common telephone scam that conned virtually two dozen B.C. grandparents out of thousands of dollars last year has resurfaced -- this time in the Okanagan.
In the past week, at least three seniors in Kelowna and Vernon have been bilked by callers playing to be grandchildren or other family members’ urgently needing cash to get them out of financial or legal binds.In one of the Vernon cases, a grandparent handed over $2,300 to $2,700 in a fraud identified by police and the Better Business Bureau as the "grandparent scam."
"Commonly they say, 'Grandma or grandpa, I've got myself into some problem here, I need money instantly,'" said Vernon RCMP spokesman Gordon Molendyk. "In a some cases they say, 'My lawyer is going to talk to you,' and another person comes on and give details that the grandchild got caught and they need money instantly or they're going to be in prison."
The victims are then asked to send several thousand dollars through Western Union to pay for bail or compensation. Scammers can then gather it from just about anywhere on the continent with little more than a money-transfer number and an agreed-upon password.
The most recent cases in the Okanagan follow at least one case last month in White Rock and practically 50 in the province last year straddling the center, the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
The "grandparent scam" flashed 48 fraud complaints to the Better Business Bureau in B.C. in 2009, taking in 21 victims for a region wide loss of $71,123.
In the White Rock case, a woman was cheated into believing her grandson was in a dire circumstance in London, England, and instantaneously needed her to transfer him $1,900.
"She went ahead and wired it to him and then sadly caught on after she had wired the money and called her grandson in Surrey and comprehend that she had been duped," said White Rock RCMP Const. Janelle Shoihet. "It's generally been old females that have been the victims."
At this point, Okanagan and Lower Mainland RCMP do not know how the perpetrators of the scam are choosing the phone numbers of older British Columbians.
"Whether it's chance or whether the victims' phone numbers are all related to a seniors' magazine or seniors' activity, I have no idea," said Molendyk.And unluckily, once the money has been wired, it is offered on the other end almost directly, leaving very little police can do to track it.
"Once you go to Western Union, you can get up anywhere. You could say it's for back east but you can pick it up in Vancouver, you can choose it up back east or anywhere in North America," Molendyk said.
Police has been advising seniors to ask questions of any supposed cash-strapped relative, such as what school they attended or what their parents' names are if they think they are being scammed.