How do you scam a scammer? Just ask Dawn Belmonte.
Scams are a sore spot for the Woodbridge, Ont., woman. Her dad was taken in by an AOL scam that robbed him of "all kinds of money" more than a decade ago while he was undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia. He died in 2004.
After a scammer left Belmonte a voicemail Monday night, she decided to try something new.
She called them back, and surprisingly, she got the fraudster to admit that it was all a scam — on video.
The scam might be familiar to you. Police across the country have issued several warnings about it over the past year.
Toronto police continue to receive reports of people being scammed by the calls. York Regional Police say they receive multiple reports daily of people receiving such calls.
It works like this: the fraudster poses as a Canada Revenue Agency agent and tells the intended victim they owe money that must be repaid, and then tell that person the RCMP will arrest them if they don't pay up.
That's exactly what happened to Belmonte — and here's how she turned the tables.
First she was put on hold "with the music just like you get from government lines" and the occasional message saying that the call was important to them and to stay on the line.
"I made up the first name that came to my head — Marisa Silvera — I don't even know where it came from," Belmonte told CBC News.
The fraudster then told her about the money she owed and the supposed laws she had broken. She pretended to not have any money.
"He was telling me I should pawn things and I should borrow money." - Dawn Belmonte
"He was telling me I should pawn things and I should borrow money and asked if I had anything to sell because I was going to go to jail," Belmonte said.
Eventually she started to cry and told the scammer her husband was already in jail for tax evasion. She hung up the phone.
She thought that was it. They phoned back two minutes later.
"They told me because they felt sorry for me, I only had to pay a small portion and at that point I started to tape."
The nearly four-minute exchange involves Belmonte pretending to be a desperate American mother whose husband is in jail.
She rebuffs all of his attempts to get money from her with excuses like, "She didn't even have enough money to buy milk" and had to borrow five dollars from her neighbour.
After trying to convince Belmonte to send money for more than three minutes, the scammer gives up.
In the video you can hear him say, "No need to cry, do not worry about anything because what I have told you is totally wrong, this is a scam and I was just trying to take money out of you, OK?"
"I was shocked," Belmonte said about the confession. "I was already prepared to go on and on with this guy and when he came out and said he was a scammer I was like 'wow.'"
"Then when I hung up, I thought this is great. I can take this to the police and they can do something with it because he's actually confessed."
Unfortunately, when Belmonte called York Regional Police on Monday night they told her there wasn't much they could do because these scammers are offshore and scramble their location. All they can do, police said, is raise awareness.
So Belmonte thought she could, too, and shared her video to Facebook.
"I honestly had no idea. I thought it would just get to my friends," said Belmonte. "I didn't think that it would be as big as it is. I'm flabbergasted."
In the end, she just wishes she could do more, because after what happened to her father, she said, "It's kind of near and dear to my heart.
"I wish I could get them arrested."
Scammers not quite done
It turns out the initial encounter with the scammer wasn't really the end.
CBC Toronto reporter Chris Glover sat down with Belmonte later Tuesday morning. While he was there, she got an automated call that went to voicemail, saying that it was her "final notice," that the CRA was filing a lawsuit against her.
Belmonte phoned the fraudsters back, yet again using her Marisa Silvera persona. And this time, after the call was put on speaker, CBC recorded the exchange.
The person on the other line quickly backed down and said it was a "wrong number" and to "just ignore this call" after she told them her name and that she'd been told not to pay the money.