A 71-year-old Cedar man fell prey to a phone scam last week, losing $7,500 to a man posing as his grandson.
The man claiming to be his grandson told the widower he was in trouble and needed money, prompting the senior to send thousands of dollars through Western Union on Jan. 17. It wasn’t until he made contact with his son on Sunday that he realized he had been the victim of a sophisticated scam.
The man is too embarrassed to consent to having his name in the paper. But while losing the money hurts, he said, “it was just a great relief to know [my grandson] was alright.”
Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien said at least one or two people are the victims of phone scams every month in Nanaimo. “As soon as the money gets transferred, it’s gone,” he said.
The fraudster told the Cedar grandfather that he hit a rental car from Quebec and landed in jail. Because he had consumed a few drinks, he said, his insurance wouldn’t cover the costs to repair the rental vehicle. He asked the Cedar man, whom he called his grandfather, to send $2,485 to cover the bill.
The caller asked the grandfather to keep the incident quiet if possible.
Concerned that his grandson was in trouble and needed help quickly, and fearing the situation could worsen, the man prepared to help.
Adding to the credibility of the story, the scammer said his lawyer would call.
A man claiming to be a lawyer called and said another $2,500 was needed for bail. The man said his assistant would follow up with the details. A female “assistant” called and gave the Cedar man a Western Union account number through which to send the money. He went directly to the Western Union branch in Ladysmith and wired the money.
The man tried to reach his son to gently inquire about the grandson’s situation, but was unable to reach him.
Adding insult to injury, the assistant called back about a supposed problem and said another $2,485 was needed.
“Like an idiot, I fell for that one too,” the Cedar man said.
This fraud is not new and has been used successfully a number of times in various communities, O’Brien said.
The grandson scam usually involves criminals calling houses until they get a senior citizen on the line, O’Brien said. From there, the criminal will say something to the effect of, “It’s your favourite grandson.” When the senior offers a name, the scam takes off.
The scammer usually suggests a scenario involving an accident and says he is in jail. From there he stipulates he doesn’t want his parents or other relatives to know, but needs money to get out of jail.
“Hopefully, the more that people hear about it the less that will fall prey,” O’Brien said.
Police advise anyone receiving calls asking for money to stop and ask specific personal questions that would reveal the true identity of the caller.
© Copyright 2013