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Police warn of rise in bail-money scams in Abbotsford

Callers pose as lawyer seeking money to get family member out of jail

The Abbotsford Police Department is warning of an increase in scams involving claims that a relative has been arrested and needs money to be bailed out of jail.

Sgt. Judy Bird said that, in a few recent incidents, victims were called by someone impersonating a criminal lawyer who stated they were calling on behalf of the victim’s family member.

The “lawyer” said the family member was in police custody but that a judge would release the person on bail, Bird said.

“The scammer also stated that the investigation is ‘ongoing’ and subject to a ‘gag order,’ and details of the investigation would not be shared,” she added.

The victims are advised that shouldn’t they talk to anyone about the investigation and, if they do, the “bail money” paid would be forfeited to the court.

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Bird said in one incident, the fraudster was a man who spoke English without an accent.

She said phone scams are becoming more sophisticated. Fraudsters can make it appear as if their calls are coming from a legitimate number, making it easier to coax victims into sending them money.

In addition, victims are regularly convinced to share personal information and to pay for non-existent outstanding debts or fines – or, in this case, fraudulent bail.

“Unfortunately, many individuals who do fall victim to these scams cannot recoup the money they send,” Bird said.

Police advice that anyone who believes they are the target of the “posting bail” phone scam:

• Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.

• Attempt to call the person purported to be in custody or check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.

• Don’t send payment to a physical address. Be wary if cash, gift cards or cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin) are requested. Legitimate bail is always paid in person at the police station or courthouse.

The Abbotsford Police say that police or an unknown lawyer would never contact members of the public to demand money, especially for bail or as a condition of avoiding jail time.

Visit antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/ for more information about how to protect yourself from fraud.

RELATED: As Canadians lose $34.6M in fraud so far this year, Crime Stoppers urges victims file reports

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