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Grandparent scam artists thwarted

Bob Clarke - News staff photo
Bob Clarke
— image credit: News staff photo

Betty Clarke was going about an otherwise normal day in her home when the phone rang. The man on the other end of the line claimed to her grandson, Dalyn, who said he’d just been in a serious car accident in Quebec.

“He said there was quite severe damage that was going to cost just under $2,000, and this had to be deposited to an account right away,” said Bob, Betty’s husband.

The retired couple panicked. They stopped at their credit union then headed to a local Money Mart to wire the cash as instructed.

It was there an astute employee told the couple they were about to become the next victims of an increasingly popular fraud operation: the grandparent scam.

“Apparently a lot of phone calls like this come from Quebec, so when Betty told them she was sending the money to Quebec, the clerk said, ‘Wait a minute.’”

The Clarkes then headed to the police station, where officers told them the problem is proliferating across Greater Victoria and much of Canada.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received more than 43,000 complaints and tracked 11,700 victims of fraud in 2013, the most recent statistics available. Those numbers have held relatively steady since 2011, but grandparent or “emergency” scams are now listed as the third-most frequent scam behind false prizes and offers for lower interest rates.

Reported scams have become so common in Victoria and Esquimalt that the Victoria Police Department began offering fraud prevention talks.

“Free of charge, VicPD reserve members are available to come in to your residence, condo complex, townhouse or facility to walk you through what you need to know to help keep yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to fraud,” said Const. Mike Russell.

Bob said he hopes his story will help shed light on grandparent scams. He’s also been back to Money Mart to thank the Good Samaritan employee.

“The scammers play on the panic mode and your dedication to your grandchildren and scare the hell out of you,” Bob said. “The more we can get this information out there, the better.”

March is fraud prevention month. Visit vicpd.ca/fraud or call VicPD Const. Sean Millard at 250-995-7654 to book a fraud prevention talk.

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