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Grandson scam nails Nanaimo woman for $24,000

The grandson scam is back in town and is bilking local victims out of thousands of dollars.

Police are reporting they have received multiple complaints since the beginning of November including those from as many as 20 victims who have lost as much as $7,000.

The most recent victim, a Nanaimo woman in her seventies who has asked not to be identified, has been hit for a total of $24,000 since she started writing money grams to cover fines, lawyer fees and damages for what has turned out to be a fictitious family member who ran afoul of the law in Lima, Peru.

The typical setup for the grandson scam is the 'grandson' or a 'lawyer' representing him calls the victim, usually with a tale about the grandson having been involved in a car accident or similar mishap, and asks the victim to send money for bail, medical costs, cash to get home and so on. Pressure or a sense of urgency is put on the victim with looming court appearances or other deadlines the con artists need the money by. The 'lawyer' provides a 10-digit code to a local wire transfer kiosk.

In the most recent case, the woman who sent $24,000 to 'lawyers' in Fort McMurray, Alta., and Lima Peru, was allegedly told her family member was involved in a rear-end collision while driving a rental car and talking on his cell phone. Damage to the rental car was $3,915. One reason the woman was duped was because she does allegedly have a family member in his thirties who could be travelling in South America. She received a total of 10 phone calls and sent six money grams of about $4,000 each.

The family member speaking on the woman's behalf – none of victim's party would agree to be identified – said the victim was also instructed to send the money grams through different businesses where Canada Post outlets were located, which included Shoppers Drug and Central Drugs locations. She was also allegedly directed to the post office and Money Mart. It was at one of these outlets where one of the clerks questioned whether the woman was being scammed.

Police are investigating the case.

John Caines, Canada Post spokesman, said staff are made aware of scams so they can spot them, advise customers and hopefully prevent the customer from making bad choices.

"We have what's called awareness training of what's going on out there," Caines said. "We have bulletins that go out anytime there are scams going around, but again it's up to the customer. I know of specific instances where our retail people actually caught these things in process and shut it down and the people who were being scammed didn't lose their money."

Still, Caines said, all Canada Post staff can do is advise the customer that they are possibly being scammed. Ultimately it's up to customers to decide whether or not they want to proceed with the transaction or stop and investigate the situation.

"We can't tell them that we're not going to do the transaction, obviously, but we always ask, 'Is this something you're sure this is something you want to do?' and maybe sometimes over second thought they'll take a day or two to look at it and maybe realize it is what it is," Caines said.

Const. Gary O'Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said in a press release that most seniors homes and seniors outreach programs in the Nanaimo area have been alerted about the scam and that it is important for people to share information about telephone and mail scams to parents, grandparents, elderly people and other groups targeted by scam artists and explain to them it is highly unlikely their real grandchildren would ask for large sums of money or would have someone pressure them to send money on their behalf.

To learn more about the grandson scam, please contact Nanaimo RCMP at 250-755-3257.

To learn more about various types of telephone, internet, mail and other scam operations, please visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.

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