Senior speaks out after nearly falling prey to 'grandparent scam'
A B.C. senior who came frighteningly close to losing thousands of dollars to phone scammers is sharing her story.
North Vancouver resident Sheila Reid was targeted in a common con that police have dubbed the "grandparent scam." Criminals will call seniors posing as a child or grandchild and beg for money to help them through a sticky situation.
In Reid's case, the caller posed as her son Owen.
"I'd just finished my breakfast so it was early morning, and I answered the phone and he said, 'Hi mom,'" Reid told CTV News.
"I said, 'You don't sound right.' He said, 'Oh, mom, I've got a problem.'"
The caller spun a story about having been in an impaired driving accident the night before. He even handed the phone to a "lawyer," who explained that if Reid could fork over $10,000 in damages her son had supposedly caused, he could make the case go away.
"The lawyer had talked to the judge and they felt that if I could pay for the damages to the other car that they would just not let it go through and he wouldn't get criminally charged," Reid said.
The senior doesn't have much money in the bank, but considered drawing on her mortage to help.
"I was quite upset thinking about all this," she said. "You know, you do [anything] for your children. It's just a natural instinct."
Fortunately, she listened to her instincts. Something didn't feel quite right, so Reid decided to phone her son, who she believed to be in jail suffering from a broken nose and split lip.
Owen Reid said he knew immediately what was happening.
"I thought, that's it – $10,000 and I'm in jail and I have a broken nose?" he said. "I knew right away it was a scam, so I said lock the door and phone the police."
The scammers had already arranged for a courier to show up and pick up the cash. By the time the courier arrived, Reid's son and a CTV News camera were at the house
According to a spokesperson, Purolator "had no involvement in the situation other than responding to a standard pick up call."
The driver who appeared at the scene "was unaware of what was happening and had no involvement in the situation," Karen White-Boswell said in an email to CTV News.
North Vancouver RCMP is now investigating the scam, which Const. Brett Cunningham said is sadly not uncommon in the city.
Anyone who believes they might be targeted by a phone scammer is urged to call police before handing over any money.
Purolator said it will work to support the police investigation into the scam.
Cunningham said seniors can also help investigators by keeping all records of their interaction with suspected con artists.
"The first thing we suggest you do is gather all the information. Record the phone number that's phoning you, collect all text messages, emails, Facebook messages, social media messages, and gather that so it's readily available for the police," he said.
Fortunately, Reid managed to avoid losing thousands to her scammers, but after being targeted she said she can understand how people fall prey to determined fraudsters who use family members to manipulate them.
"I've always thought I was a little bit smarter than that but they led me right down the garden path," she said.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Penny Daflos and Nafeesa Karim