The son of an 87-year-old Abbotsford man who was scammed out of $67,000 is sharing the story as a warning to others.
John Brown (not his real name) said although his dad eventually got back $41,000 of the amount he sent to the scammers, he is still out the remaining $26,000.
Brown said his dad, “Dave,” who formerly ran his own business for many years, was recently declared by a doctor to be of sound mind, but fell prey to a phone scam promising that if he invested $75,000, he would receive $3.5 million in return.
The caller, “Jack,” who first connected with Dave in January, said he had inherited $26 million from an uncle who had a gold mine in Sierra Leone, so he was good for the money.
Brown found out about the scam and begged his parents not to send any more money, but they wouldn’t listen nor would they take the advice of two Abbotsford police officers who visited them after Brown filed a police report.
He soon discovered that his dad had sent various amounts – ranging from $400 to $26,000 – to different locations in Canada and the U.S.
Meanwhile, the scammer continued to call Dave, promising that he would soon receive his $3.5 million and warning him not to let anyone know about the calls.
Other scam calls came from people purporting to be bank workers, RCMP officers and investors, claiming that Jack could be trusted.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service was able to intercept $26,000 in cash that Dave had been instructed by Jack to send in three different envelopes within one larger envelope to an address in the States.
Authorities spoke with Jack, who had the tracking number for the parcel, and confirmed he was calling from a number in Jamaica. The cash was not forwarded.
A separate package with $15,000 cash was intercepted by Canada Post.
A woman in Toronto, Erika Murray, 23 was arrested in relation to the scam for charges of fraud over $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime and laundering the proceeds of crime.
An investigation into the packages sent to the U.S. is continuing.
Brown said his parents eventually realized they had been the victims of fraud and are “very remorseful and feel very stupid and embarrassed” about the situation. The calls from Jack have stopped.
Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald confirms that Brown notified local police on Jan. 30 about the situation.
He said these types of scammers typically find their victims by searching social media sites online and finding out personal details.
“They’re looking for established people who have access to money,” MacDonald said.
He said these cases can be difficult to solve, from a police perspective, because the scammers often operate from foreign countries and use fake names, phone numbers that constantly change, and email accounts that are difficult to trace.
MacDonald warns consumers to follow the age-old advice of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
“Our main concern is awareness. If someone is asking you to part with your money, your Spidey senses should be tingling,” he said.