'Grandparent scam' tricks seniors into giving away money
Despite breaking up a telemarketing scam in Montreal last month, the RCMP say seniors in the United States and Canada continue to be targeted by con artists posing as grandchildren in need of financial help.
RCMP officers conducted raids late last month on 16 Western Union and MoneyGram outlets in Montreal that were allegedly involved in a fraud that's become known as the "Grandparent scam." An unspecified number of charges are pending, according to police.
RCMP Const. Kathy Brousseau said at the time that hundreds of victims allegedly lost a total of $3.5 million.
The RCMP said people are still being defrauded by the same scheme.
Sgt. Yves Leblanc said corrupt agents who work predominantly at outlets are allowing the impostors to pick up the wired money. He said the RCMP continues to track the flow of money in an attempt to catch the perpetrators, and that the wire companies are working with police to catch those involved.
'Embarrassed and hurt'
Most of the scammers are based in Canada, according to the RCMP and the FBI. About 500 U.S. seniors have been duped.
"I was so embarrassed and hurt," said Donald Westberg, who lost almost $6,000.
"But I felt if I could get the word out to as many people as I could, that was my salvation — [to] stop it from happening," he told CBC News.
Westberg, a resident of Carver, Mass., said someone impersonating his grandson, Adam, had called him. The caller claimed he had failed a sobriety test while driving in Canada. He said he needed $3,400 to bail himself out of jail and asked Westberg to wire the money to him.
"My heart was pumping. I [was] so concerned for Adam that I told him: 'I can go to the bank and get the money,'" Westberg said
After Westberg sent the caller the money through Moneygram, the caller rang again the next day and asked for an additional $2,500. Westberg complied again, only to find out later he had been taken in.
Westberg called the police, and notified the media.
His actions saved 91-year-old Evelyn Walsh, who had received a similar phone call, from being ripped off. Walsh, also a Carver resident, was about to send $2,000 to Quebec to help her grandson Tommy, she said. Two local girls told Walsh of Westberg's story, and she held on to her money.
Westberg's wife Jan says she is proud of her husband for publicizing how he got defrauded.
"I was proud of him, really proud of him. It's not easy to say: 'I've been a damn fool,'" she said.
She felt they had a responsibility to ensure the same thing doesn't happen to other people.
With files from Reg Sherren