British Columbia

Vancouver seniors bilked out of millions due to phone scam, police say

Vancouver Police have issued a warning after local seniors were defrauded of $3.1 million in a phone scam.

Seniors were defrauded out of $3.1 million in five different cases

The scammer did not hang up after speaking with the seniors and pretended to be a police officer when they called 911. (CBC)

The Vancouver Police has issued a public warning after local seniors were defrauded of millions of dollars in a phone scam. 

Police say five of them lost $3.1 million. 

In the scam, a fraudster would call a senior on a landline and pretend to be a jewelry store employee or a police officer. 

The fraudster would tell the senior their credit card had been used for a large purchase or that police needed their help for an investigation. They don't ask for any personal information, but urged the senior to hang up and call their bank or 911 immediately.

The fraudster, however, would stay on the line.

On some landline phones, when the originating caller does not hang up, the two lines stay connected. 

When the senior picked up the phone again to call 911 or their bank as directed, the fraudster was still on the line. They would play a fake dial tone, and then they would pretend to be the police officer or bank representative after the senior dialled the number.

Eventually, through a series of back-and-forth phone calls, the fraudster would persuade the senior to transfer large amounts of money to overseas accounts. 

Sgt Jason Robillard, a media relations officer for the Vancouver Police Department, said there is often a chance of not hanging up properly when using a landline telephone. 

"Consider using a cellphone or make sure you are disconnected after you hang up," Robillard said. 

In addition, he suggested, after hanging up, you can call a friend or a family member you trust. If you get through to them, he said, you can be sure your phone has properly disconnected.

In two cases, investigators were able to recover $2.5 million of the stolen money. No arrests have been made, but police are continuing their investigations.

Police are asking any additional victims to come forward and contact the Vancouver Police at 604-717-0503. Those victims outside of Vancouver should contact their local police detachment.