How these Toronto UPS workers helped a scammed woman get her $12.5K back

A Toronto woman drained her credit card, stuffed $12,500 in cash inside a magazine and shipped it through UPS to a man she thought was her jailed nephew's lawyer — only to find she'd been scammed.

'I'm so grateful to those two ladies,' said the victim of a so-called grandparent scam

After a Toronto woman shipped a magazine full of cash to a scam artist, UPS employees Donna Scott and Farah Shirazi helped her intercept the package. (Submitted by Donna Scott)
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Transcript

A Toronto woman drained her credit card, stuffed $12,500 in cash inside a magazine and shipped it through UPS to a man she thought was her jailed nephew's lawyer — only to find she'd been scammed.

The woman — identified only by her middle name, Elaine — was the victim of the so-called grandparent scam, in which fraudsters call elderly people and pretend to be their grandchild or another relative in need of quick cash. 

But thanks in part to pair of helpful UPS workers — Farah Shirazi and Donna Scott — Elaine was able to get the money back safe and sound before it reached its destination."   

"I'm so grateful to those two ladies," Elaine told the Toronto Star, which reported her story — with all its twists and turns — in great detail. 

Scott, a UPS sales associate, spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off. Here is part of their conversation.

When this woman came in with this urgent package, what do you remember about her? 

She seemed a little frantic, but that's not out of the norm this time of the year. And she wanted to have her package sent to Montreal as quickly as possible.

And did she tell you what was in the package? 

She did not. Going somewhere in Canada, she doesn't need to say what's in there. It was wrapped in a magazine and then we put it into an envelope.

The gandparent scam is when fraudsters call elderly people and pretend to be their grandchild or another relative in need of quick cash. (Istock)

When did you hear back from her?

It was the next day around 11:30 in the morning. She called, I answered the phone and I remember her calling and she said she needed to stop the package.

I remember it was a 9 a.m. delivery, so I'm thinking right away that the package had already arrived.

Is that what you said to her? 

I said the package probably arrived already, but let me check.

I checked, and sure enough, it had not. So I thought, "Well, that's good." I said probably there was probably a snowstorm the day before, so more than likely, it's been delayed.

She said, "I need to have the package stopped because it's fraud." 

I didn't ask her any other questions — I knew exactly what had happened.

I knew that it was fraud. Because about a year and a half earlier, I had a similar incident where somebody had sent somebody money and that it was a fraud case.

What did you have to do in order to stop that package?

I called UPS, told them exactly the situation, that the package is fraud, but it looks like it's still hasn't been delivered.

She called me back saying, "OK, we've flagged the package to stop being shipped and to return it."

Did she tell you how much money was inside that package?

I did not know until this until Mary [Ormsby] from from the Toronto Star informed me exactly how much was in there.

Tips for protecting yourself against the so-called "grandparent scam":

  • Never give the caller any information they don't already have.
  • Press the caller for specific details and ask them to repeat their story.
  • Ask them questions your relative would know the answers to, but an imposter would not.
  • After you hang up, immediately call the relative in question.
  • Never wire money.
  • Never province your credit card number over the phone or Internet unless you're sure you know who you're giving it to.

Source: Canadian Bankers Association 

There was somebody else tracking this package as well. What do you know about that?

So [the scammer] also got notification that this package was stopped and that it was being returned back to the customer.

What did they do?

From what I was told, this person called her on her cellphone ... said that they were from UPS and that the package wasn't allowed to be returned to her. 

She called us, and [we said] no, we don't give us cellphone numbers on the package anywhere.  

So that was one of her clues. UPS didn't have her cellphone number, so how could they be calling her?

No, and when she came in, she gave her home number. We didn't even have her cell number anywhere on our records.

Did you see Elaine when she got her money back?

I was not here in the store that day but the [store] owner Farrah was her contact person when she picked it up.

Have you seen her since?

She did come into the store.

She brought, you know, a gift for Farrah and I just to thank us. She was upset and felt really, you know, bad.

And I just reassured her that, you know, it was a good thing that it worked out well.

Written by Sheena Goodyear and Alison Broverman. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A edited for length and clarity.

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