British Columbia

Senior lost $14K to scammers, believing she was helping her grandson: police

Police are warning the public after an elderly woman in Nanaimo, B.C., lost $14,000 to scammers pretending to help her grandson early this month.

Men posing as police officer, lawyer told 80-year-old her grandson needed bail money

RCMP in Nanaimo, B.C., say an 80-year-old woman lost $14,000 to scammers early this month, after the men said they were going to help her grandson make bail. (graphbottles/Shutterstock)

Police are warning the public after an elderly woman on Vancouver Island lost $14,000 to scammers pretending to help her grandson earlier this month.

RCMP say the woman, who lives in Nanaimo, B.C., was strung along over a period of nine days.

She was told her grandson had been arrested after a car accident in Montreal and needed $7,500 to make bail. She spoke with at least two men over the phone: one posing as a police officer, the other as a lawyer for her grandson.

The woman, 80, transferred the $7,500 to an address in Montreal through Purolator. She sent another $6,500 after the fake lawyer phoned again the next day.

The men told the woman she couldn't tell her grandson's mother what was happening.

"The phone calls continued until Sept. 9," RCMP said in a statement Wednesday. "By this time the victim was somewhat suspicious and leery of the situation and stopped all communication."

The woman has not been able to get any of her money back.

"This was a classic situation of scammers tugging at the heart strings of the victim. They took advantage of an elderly lady and exploited it to their advantage," said Const. Gary O'Brien.

'Notorious' scam

Nanaimo RCMP said its team has informed the police jurisdiction in Quebec from which the calls originated about the crime. An investigation is ongoing.

The "grandchild scam" is notorious. Seniors across the country have lost tens of thousands of dollars over the years to scammers who either pretend to be someone's grandchild, or someone helping the grandchild.

RCMP said anyone who is contacted by a possible scammer should resist the urge to immediately act and end the conversation if something feels wrong. In a case like the one seen in Nanaimo, people should ask to verify the caller's identity by, for example, asking the caller a personal question only the grandchild would be able to answer.

The public can always call their local police department or detachment if they are concerned. Cash, gift cards or money transfers should never be sent to a caller.