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RCMP looking into 'grandparent scam'

A Port Coquitlam grandmother is out $2,100 after falling victim to a telephone scam this week.

And Margaret Chisholm is warning others not to fall prey to thieves by telling her story to The Tri-City News.

The 78-year-old woman said she got a phone call on Monday from a woman who claimed to be her 24-year-old granddaughter, a Vancouver resident.

"She said, 'Hi, Grandma. Do you know who this is?' I said, 'Of course, I do. It's Nicky.'

"That was my first error," Chisholm said.

The fraudster — "who sounded very much like my granddaughter," Chisholm said — then proceeded to tell her she was upset about a car accident she had been involved in with a friend in Quebec. The woman claimed she was in a rental car when the collision happened and that she was being held in custody and needed money immediately.

She claimed she had retained legal aid. Then, a man claiming to be her lawyer spoke to Chisholm to explain he had gotten her granddaughter off on drunk-driving charges.

The man asked her to wire $2,100 through Western Union to Westmount, Que. Chisholm complied.

The fake granddaughter called back later to say the money was slow to arrive and told her more trouble had arisen with other injured passengers. When Chisholm said she wasn't going to send anymore cash without talking to her own lawyer, the line went silent.

When Chisholm spoke with her granddaughter the next day, she said she knew nothing of a car crash and had not left B.C.

It was then that Chisholm knew she'd been had and called the cops.

So-called "grandparent scams" are nothing new to the Tri-Cities.

Last September, a Port Moody senior was bilked out of $7,600 after he took a call from a woman who claimed he was the 79-year-old man's granddaughter. The caller said she had been in an accident, was being held by Quebec police and needed money wired to pay for damages.

Four months later, an 80-year-old Coquitlam man got a similar call from someone who claimed to be his grandson. He was crying and told his "grandpa" to send bail money through Western Union so he could be released from jail. He did but when then man called his daughter afterward, he learned it was a hoax.

Luckily, in his case, fraud investigators were able to stop the wire transfer.

Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Jamie Chung told The Tri-City News the investigation with Westmount police and Western Union is ongoing in the latest scam.

He offered the following prevention tips:

• Don't give in: Resist the pressure to "act now" and be very wary of unsolicited calls.

• Verify who you are dealing with: Ask for details from the caller, such as his/her name, whereabouts, etc. Then confirm them with other family members.

• Better be safe than be sorry: Contact the police as they may be able to help verify the legitimacy of the telephone call.

For information on fraud safety, protection and current frauds affecting Canadians, visit antifraudcentre.ca.

jwarren@tricitynews.com

 

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