Scam targeting grandparents has taken people for thousands

An Abbotsford woman wants the public to be aware that a scam targeting grandparents is still active in the area.

Katherine Brown said she almost lost $3,700 until other people suggested she was being scammed and should do some double-checking.

Brown received a phone call last week from a man who said, “It’s your favourite grandson.” Because she has a grandson who often uses that phrase, she assumed it was him.

The caller said he had been in a car accident, which had been deemed his fault. He said he was at the courthouse and required $3,700 in legal fees which she could wire to him in Montreal, using Western Union.

The caller, who ignored Brown’s requests for his name, also passed the phone on to a man whom he said was his lawyer, “Shane Hughes.”

Brown agreed to send the money, and the caller said he would phone her back in an hour to confirm.

As she was leaving her apartment building, she told the story to another resident. That woman told Brown that it sounded just like the “grandparents’ scam” she had heard about.

Brown repeated the story to two Western Union employees, who advised her not to send any money.

Brown then tried to reach the grandson in Edmonton that she believed had called her for the money, but he wasn’t answering his cellphone. Instead, she reached his mother – her daughter-in-law – and discovered there had been no car accident, and her grandson was OK.

She returned home and then received about six or seven phone calls within the next hour from people she believed were the scammers. When she finally answered, the caller wanted to know if she had wired the funds.

When she said no, the “lawyer” called back, saying her grandson was crying because he needed the money. Brown told him that she knew they were scammers, and they stopped calling.

She then reported the matter to the police. She said she is thankful for the people who advised her of the scam because she otherwise would have sent the cash.

Her grandson later returned her calls.

“I told him, ‘I would have helped you anytime because I love my family,’ “ Brown said.

Abbotsford Police first reported the “grandparents’ scam” was operating in the community last summer, when four senior women lost between $2,000 and $4,800 each.

In February, a 73-year-old man lost $9,000 to the fraud. In all cases, the victims were instructed to wire funds to Montreal, through Western Union.

It is believed the scammers obtain personal information about family members through obituaries or social networking sites such as Facebook.

In February, four men and three women were charged with fraud-related offences after operating the scam in Mississauga and Oakville, Ontario. It is estimated they bilked their victims out of $3 million.

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