Nfld. & Labrador

'You're cheating people': St. John's man fires back at scammers

Robert Emberley, 60, has received any number of phone scam calls over the years, including a recent Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scam call.

Robert Emberley gets lots of calls from scammers and phones them back

Robert Emberly, 60, frequently calls scammers back to give them a piece of his mind. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

A St. John's man is taking on the scammers who have phoned him many time over the years, in an effort to shame them. 

Robert Emberley, 60, said his latest shady call was from someone claiming to represent the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The CRA scam is when someone pretending to be an official from the agency calls to say you might be arrested because of problems with your taxes, unless you come up with money. 

"It was a very panicked phone call. As if I'm in big trouble," said Emberley.

"First off I thought it was the government. And what have I done now because it's income tax time, and my wife was just after doing our income taxes. So, I said, 'we made a mistake. What do we do?'" said Emberley. 

He didn't fall for the scam, but an incident in Mount Pearl on June 2 shows that others do. 

A man in his 80s went into a bank in Mount Pearl to withdraw a lot of cash. Fortunately, a bank employee realized something unusual was going on, and called the police, saving the senior from an extortion attempt.

A TD Bank employee called police after a senior tried to withdraw thousands of dollars last Thursday. (John Pike/CBC)

'I called back 30 times'

Emberley, who has Parkinson's and gets a disability pension, kept the recorded message left on his phone.

It said: "The reason behind this call is to notify you that we have registered a criminal case against your name (inaudible) and tax fraud. So if you need more information about this case, you can call our direct line number."

After a coffee, and 15 minutes of thinking, Emberley realized he was being scammed, and decided to give the scammers a piece of his mind. 

"I called back 30 times. First of all, I got no answer. Then somebody said it was the wrong number. The last time I called, they said, 'hello, Domino's Pizza,'" said Emberley, laughing.

"Then I called the police, and she said this is an ongoing thing. They do this all the time. They bounce their signals all over the place." 

The threatening message from someone pretending to represent the CRA was left on Robert Emberley's voice mail. (CBC)

The real Canada Revenue Agency has a warning about such calls on its web-site, including animation about a character named Mike getting a call and how to handle the situation. 

"If you get a call, that sounds like a scam, it probably is. Hang up or delete," warns the CRA. 

Morally wrong

Emblerly said he makes a bit of a habit of calling scammers back, to try to shame them. 

"I engage them. You're not supposed to, but I do. And I tell them, 'you're cheating people. How can you morally do this?' Some of the people, some of the ladies have almost been in tears," he said.

"Grandma lives in this house by herself. She gets this phone call she thinks is from the government or computer people. She doesn't know what do to. She's alone. This sets people off for days and days. What stress it puts on the elderly and the sick."

Emberley said that once he started calling scammers back, he got more calls. "Once or twice a week, I get these phone calls."

Despite the possible harm these scammers can do, Emberley looks at them with a degree of sympathy. 

"I feel sorry for them. They are trying to make a life, but they don't know how. These could be good people. But they just messed up somewhere." 

Emberley is a man who laughs easily, and did when he said he has a very good reason for never falling for a scam.

"Divorce. My wife would kill me. She does the finances." 


Glenn Payette


A veteran journalist with more than 30 years' experience, Glenn Payette is a videojournalist with CBC News in St. John's.