Monday, April 15, 2024
April 15, 2024

Family’s fraud experience prompts warning

While scams that involve a phone call from a distressed relative claiming to need money due to an accident, robbery or being arrested are nothing new, a Salt Spring woman wants to warn others of the sophistication of a scam that recently victimized her family. 

The woman’s mother first took the phone call from a person claiming to be her son and a Salt Spring RCMP officer, but the woman was also convinced she was talking to her brother and an RCMP member. Both said the brother had rear-ended a vehicle where a child was injured and he was going to be charged with “reckless endangerment,” which was later threatened to be “manslaughter” because the child had reportedly died. The whole episode covered a span of about four and a half hours, and only ended when the real brother/son walked in the door, clearly unharmed. By then the sum of $2,000 “for bail” had been sent to the scammers via e-transfer.

“It left both my mother and I reeling,” the woman said. 

She said the scammers had obviously done their research about the family, down to knowing the nickname her brother calls her when they are working together. 

“That’s the really chilling part.” 

Salt Spring RCMP Sgt. Clive Seabrook confirmed that an investigation into the incident is ongoing and as such he cannot comment further on the specifics of the case.

However, he added, “I can say that a variety of frauds occur here and around the province every day, frauds that are only limited by the perpetrator’s imagination.”

Seabrook said it is not uncommon for a person to receive a phone call from somebody claiming to be a family member who is in some kind of distress.

For example, the scammer pretends to be a grandson who needs money sent immediately because they’ve been arrested, robbed or in an accident.

“The problem with this is that the caller really isn’t the relative that they claim to be and your money is going to the scammer,” said Seabrook. “Often, all the information the scammer needs to pull off the scam is provided on social media or simply by the victim themselves.” 

Seabrook said this particular scam has evolved over the years “and become even far more sophisticated. The voice used in the phone call may be altered to sound real. This can be accomplished using digital manipulation, likely with the help of artificial intelligence.” 

The woman said her mother did challenge the caller about their identity, but the voice really did sound like her brother under stress. 

Seabrook has some specific advice to help people avoid becoming a fraud victim. 

Automatically be suspicious of:

• Anyone asking for money, or gift cards;

• be extra suspicious if the money is requested through a wire (which are difficult to track and almost impossible to recover);

• also, an increasingly common tactic, if the money is requested to be sent through a cryptocurrency ATM (which is also extremely difficult to recover).

To avoid being a victim: 

• Ask for the name of who is supposedly speaking rather than offer it.

• Do not be afraid to make calls of your own. Verify identities or whereabout of the caller with other family members, even if they say “don’t tell mom and dad.”

• Do not be afraid to say “no” to the caller. You don’t need to send money immediately.

• Never give your personal, banking or credit card information to anyone who calls you over the phone, never send cash/gift cards in the mail and never buy someone cryptocurrency under these circumstances.

March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada.

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