Caught-on-camera scam: 'Person of interest' takes envelope full of cash from B.C. seniors told relative was in jail
Video released by Vancouver police shows someone they're calling a "person of interest" in an investigation into a new scam targeting local seniors.
Officers released the video Friday, saying they're looking for information about the man in the video after receiving two separate reports from seniors now out thousands of dollars.
The incidents both happened Wednesday.
A couple living on Vancouver's West Side received a call, police said, from a man who told them their nephew had been in a car accident and needed money to get out of jail.
The man told the couple, in their 70s, that he needed $8,000. A person then came to their house and picked up the money.
On the same day, another Vancouver resident in their 70s got a similar call.
That person, a 75-year-old woman who lives in Kitsilano, was told her grandson had been in a car accident and arrested. In this case, the victim was told she'd have to put up $9,000 for his bail.
A man then came to her home to pick up the money.
The Vancouver Police Department said it's not yet known whether they're looking for a single suspect or an organized group in the cases.
"It's not uncommon for scammers to target the elderly by contacting them by mail, telephone or online. What's different and concerning is that fraudsters are now showing up at the victims' doorsteps to collect cash," Const. Tania Visintin said in a statement released with the video.
"It's brazen and we're concerned about people's safety."
Visintin said in a media availability later in the day that police in Vancouver are reaching out to officers in other cities, including Surrey and Chilliwack, where similar scams have been reported, to determine whether there are any connections.
"Until we know more, we urge everyone to be cautious about strangers who ask for money."
The man in the video released Friday is not being called a suspect – instead described as a "person of interest" – but officers say they are looking for more information about him and the scam.
His face is partially hidden from the camera and he's wearing a mask, but he may be recognizable by sight or by his voice to someone who knows who he is.
The video shows the man approaching and knocking on the front door of a home.
He yells, "Hi there, it's Chris, from the courthouse. I'm just picking up a package."
A person inside the home opens the door, and the person of interest asks how those inside are, wishing them a "happy new year."
It's hard to make out what the people inside are saying to him, but he makes small talk, including asking whether they made any resolutions this year.
He stands, hands on his hips, waiting and looking back at the street, where a black vehicle is parked that he indicates is his.
Someone inside the house can be heard on a phone, telling whoever is on the line that "Chris" is at the door. Eventually, he's handed an envelope – presumably filled with the victims' money – and he heads off, wishing them a happy new year again.
Someone inside the house can be heard asking either another resident or someone on the phone, "Have you heard any more from the hospital," as the man who called himself "Chris" walks out of frame. The door closes.
The entire encounter lasts about 2.5 minutes.
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