British Columbia

Senior says she was tricked into spending $20K in gift-card phone scam

A Vancouver senior wants to warn the public of a phone scam after she was tricked into buying $20,000 in gift cards.

74-year-old Vancouver woman was duped by a caller who sounded like her grandson and claimed he needed help

The woman says scammers convinced her to go to Safeway and Best Buy locations over five days and buy $2,000 in gift cards in 10 separate transactions. (NabuPhotoBank/Shutterstock)

A Vancouver senior wants to warn the public of a phone scam after she was tricked into buying $20,000 in gift cards. 

The 74-year-old says she received a phone call on May 25 from someone who sounded exactly like her 24-year-old grandson.

The man told the senior he had been involved in a car accident that had injured someone and that he needed money to pay a lawyer. 

"Within the first minute or two, you are grabbed emotionally," said the woman, who CBC News is not naming to protect her privacy.

The senior said the man pressured her and said the "court system has to be paid."

She said she received a second call shortly after from a different person who pretended to be her grandson's lawyer.

'She was pretty confused'

Over the next five days, both fraudsters called repeatedly, sometimes together. 

They convinced the senior to go to several Safeway and Best Buy locations over five days, where she bought $2,000 in gift cards in each of 10 separate transactions. 

The callers said the money was needed to pay the grandson's bail and legal fees, and to avoid the risk of him ending up with a criminal record. 

The scammers had the woman read the codes from the back of the gift cards.

They also convinced the senior not to tell her grandson's parent, JT Beck, about the situation. 

Beck, a lawyer, lives in the same building as their mother and had no idea the scam had unfolded over the week. 

"She really honestly felt like my son was on the phone," Beck said. "So I think she was pretty confused for a few days."

After five days of back and forth, the senior grew suspicious the fraudsters couldn't answer questions that her grandson would be able to answer. She contacted Beck to tell them what had happened.

The family called the police to report the scam but were told that investigations into phone scams rarely yield results.

No refund on gift cards

In an email, Const. Tania Visintin with the Vancouver Police Department said police have seen these scams take place over the years. 

"We also urge people to speak to the elderly people in their lives and advise them of this," she said. 

"Naturally, older citizens are more [trusting] and just overkind, so they typically become the targets of such awful crimes."

Beck said the credit card company won't refund their mother for the gift-card charges, some of which were paid for in cash.

The two hope that sharing their experience will help protect others from becoming victims. 

The senior said families should agree on a code word ahead of time that they can use with each other if they're in trouble.