She picked up the phone and heard a woman’s voice, crying.
She asked if it was her daughter.
“Yes,” said the voice, still sobbing. “I’m in trouble and in jail. You need to talk to my lawyer. I need your help. He’ll call you.” Silence on the other end of the phone.
A few moments later, the woman’s phone rings again in her Vernon home. It’s the “lawyer.” He is claiming the Vernon woman’s daughter – the one supposedly sobbing heavily into the phone – was driving drunk in Alberta, causing a car accident which resulted in her being incarcerated. Bail, in the amount of $65,000, he said, would be required to get the daughter out.
“The story is every elaborate and convincing, despite the fact that my mother knows I never over-drink, let alone drive after consuming alcohol,” said the daughter, who did not want to give her name.
The male voice further instructed the woman, in her 80s, to not tell anyone about the call or incident under any circumstances, or her daughter’s bail would be revoked.
“He gave her his name, cell phone number and business number (both active Alberta phone numbers) and asked her to call him back once she’d been to the bank,” said the daughter. “He told her that if the bank asked what it was for, to tell them that she owed someone some money and wanted to repay them. He gave her the wire transfer details.
“My dear, sweet, loving mother did as he asked and went to the bank to get the wire transfer forms.”
Thankfully, for the family, two things happened.
The bank teller asked the woman some questions and told her the banking information was for an account in China, which started the mom asking herself some questions, and the bank was about to close.
The woman returned home and called the “lawyer,” advising him she wouldn’t be able to proceed until the next day.
“He was very patient and told her he was going to visit me in jail and reassured her that everything would be fine and I’d be released once she sent the $65,000,” said the daughter. “My mom was going to drive out to Alberta to see me.”
The daughter’s son, who also lives in Vernon, had talked to his grandmother briefly and told his mom of the visit.
“She was very upset and let slip that I was “in trouble,” said the daughter. “Had he not called me, she likely would have proceeded on Saturday with transferring the money to these criminals.
“These people are professional criminals preying on honest, loving seniors who would do anything to protect their family, including acting out of character themselves. They are very convincing, preying on emotions – so much so that when I called my mom from my landline in the evening she did not believe it was me. She was thoroughly deceived and convinced that I was in jail.”
It’s a variation of the Grandparents Scam, where scammers phone unsuspecting seniors, pretending to be a loved one in trouble, and ask to have money wired to help them.
The family has started a file with the RCMP.
“These scams are constantly evolving,” said Insp. Gord Stewart with the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP. “There are various levels of sophistication on these calls.”
Stewart said anybody asking for bank account information should send up a warning sign.
“Check with authorities or with the agencies they claim to be representing,” he said. “But definitely don’t send them money.”