Just say no and ask additional questions when confronted with urgent demands for money.
That is the message Sidney/North Saanich RCMP is sharing as part of a campaign coinciding with National Fraud Prevention Month in March to help residents spot scams, which are on the rise in their jurisdiction.
Cpl. Andres Sanchez said it is natural for people to look for solutions when presented with emergency situations, especially when appeals come from individuals claiming to be figures of authority.
“If someone pressures you to give money immediately, there is no harm in saying no,” he said. “And follow up – if somebody is pressuring you to make a decision immediately, there is no issue in telling them, ‘Just wait, I need to get a second opinion on this.’ Even if it takes an extra 15 minutes to call somebody, to call a friend, to call police, just to get some guidance.”
This advice appears against the backdrop of data showing scams and frauds on the rise with reported local losses having risen by 73 per cent over 2020 figures for a total of $664,021. The number of victims reporting financial losses due to fraud in 2021 rose by 48 per cent and the numbers are trending upward in 2022.
A North Saanich couple in their 90s lost over $10,000 in early February. The couple – they’ve asked to remain anonymous — received a phone call from a man who identified himself as their son, claiming he was in jail and suffering from facial injuries affecting his speech. The couple also heard from another man claiming to be their son’s lawyer, who said their son had critically injured a baby in a rear-end collision. The “lawyer” demanded a large amount of money to cover fines and bail.
The couple complied with that request, only to be confronted with another fictional claim for money, which they also fulfilled.
The couple found they had fallen victim to fraudsters after calling their son, who was in good health at home and not in police custody, Sanchez said.
“They realized at that point that they had been taken advantage of,” he said, noting the couple made this discovery late during the second day of the scam.
This raises the inevitable question: how did the scammers convince the couple for so long that their son was in trouble?
“This was a case where the couple was pressured in an urgent situation,” Sanchez said. “They believed they were doing something in the best interest of their son and (that he was) in trouble. Under the guise that this was an emergency, they probably took less steps, too, because they were trying to meet a time frame.”
Sanchez believes the age of the victims was not a factor. “We have seen instances where I had someone in their 50s here at the front counter trying to pay money to get somebody out of jail, and we determined that this was a fraudulent scam.”
Police are currently investigating where the couple’s money might have ended up, and efforts are underway to help recover the lost money, in collaboration with the residents and their bank.
“We are doing our best to try and recover the money if we can. It is sort of a long process through the courts,” Sanchez said, adding in his experience financial institutions often step in and try to deal with it otherwise.
He encourages residents to call the RCMP detachment at 250-656-3931 if they are unsure why someone is asking for money over the phone, if they feel pressured to transfer funds, or feel uncomfortable with situation.
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