Phone scam is a lesson for everyone 0
It's unknown if emergency scams are growing in popularity, but in Ontario there has been a reported loss of $611, 774.62 this year. Barb Lyons hopes her experience will help teach people to be wary of phone scams. DARREN LUM/HALIBURTON ECHO/QMI AGENCY
Barb Lyons learned scammers prey upon your worst fears as a parent.
When the Haliburton mother, 55, received a disturbing call that her “son” was involved in a severe car accident, left with a broken nose, and in jail facing drunk driving charges she nearly sent money to complete strangers recently.
The five-minute call gave her little to validate the story.
“He kept saying, ‘Mom, I’m so sorry, but don’t tell anybody. Don’t tell anybody I’ve done this.’ I thought: That’s kind of weird,” she said.
A person posing as a lawyer then spoke to her, providing the details of the incident, including the police detainment.
They asked she wire $2,100 from the Haliburton Western Union office to Justin Jarvis at 77 Victoria St., West Mount, Que. Lyon thought that was strange, expecting a court office address instead of a specific person.
He told her, “Make sure you don’t tell [Western Union] why you’re sending the money because they’ll charge you $500.”
She remembers this lawyer told her if she wired the money within two hours her son will be released.
“At that point I’m thinking OK I’m going to ask my son personal questions … funny thing is my son was in B.C. on holidays [with his girlfriend],” she said.
Nothing seemed to add up.
Her partner and friend were both there, warning this sounded like a scam despite the lawyer’s best effort to dissuade her.
“Tell your partner to get out of his bad mood. Your son is in jail and he is in Quebec and you cannot get him out until you wire the money over,” he told her.
“He was getting mad. But the voice of the lawyer, as far as I’m concerned, is the same person who called and imitated [my son],” she said, adding his voice changed when he got mad. “I think he knew we figured him out.”
Her suspicions mounted when she was not allowed to speak to her son further. She adds her son is responsible and would never drive drunk. Lyons called her son’s work that relayed her message to call her. When she spoke with her son on the phone it was a great relief.
“I cried. Oh my God, I thought you were in a car accident. We didn’t know how we were going to get you out of jail,” she said.
Ontario Provincial Police constable Dave Felstead with the anti-rackets branch said this type of scam is not the most common, but is a popular method in the province.
He likens it to the grandparent scam, which relies on the same details such as being in Quebec, an impaired charge (injuring someone else) in a car accident. Commonly these scammers ask for $4,000 to $5,000. The money is often asked to be paid through Western Union or Pay Pal, he said.
The scammers in the grandparents scam always rely on people to not tell Mom and Dad.
“That’s where they kind of get them. They would do anything for their grandchildren and they don’t want to get them in trouble with their parents. If they were to call their children they would say, no, it’s a scam … It’s very effective scam that is going on,” he said.
Felstead said any information that can link to other complaints could help.
He said there are three other new scams being executed: a duct cleaning scam, which is when someone offers to clean your ducts for a flat fee of $329, regardless of house size (you pay give your credit card numbers and they never show up); anti-virus scam, which is when someone alerts you on the phone of a virus, offering to clean your computer for $99 to $199 with remote access that gives them a window to your identity and credit card numbers; and the bank investor scam, which works on the premise of getting your help to catch a bank employee stealing money. They will get you to withdraw a few thousand dollars from your bank and then ask you to bring the money to them in the parking lot with assurances of crediting your money.
Detective constable John Schultz with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) said they categorize the grandparents (and parents) scams as emergency scams.
In the past three years, he said, this scam has become “more prevalent in Canada.”
Last year, the CAFC received 3,324 complaints of which 761 reported a combined loss of $2,569,695 in Canada. This year there have been 11,665 complaints and 470 reported a loss of $1,223,405. For Ontario, the CAFC received 1,890 complaints with 428 reporting a combined loss of $1,463,302 last year. This year there have been 902 complaints with 230 reporting a combined loss of $611, 774. Schultz said these statistics represent five per cent of the actual number of occurrences.
He points out there have been several arrests in Canada, including Europe and the U.S.
Schultz said there is another threat people should know about. Scammers have an upgraded tool to steal information from people’s electronic devices.
The recently upgraded electronic device the WiFi Pineapple Mark IV helps scammers to get contact lists or email addresses off of electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones when people use public WiFi hotspots. It impersonates WiFi networks and uses default settings on electronic devices that constantly search for hotspots. This product is sold online and can be purchased for $89.99. There are five recommended ways to protect your Internet connection: turn off WiFi, avoid open WiFi networks, use a VPN (OR SSH tunnel), change your WiFi settings, and ask your manufacturer to fix the problem.
For Lyons, who hopes her experience can act as a lesson for others, this was the first time she was ever approached like this.
Her son has since taken steps to reduce the amount of personal information on his Facebook page. She has warned others of her experience on Facebook, providing the details given to her in the scam.
She recommends others to not wire money to anyone unless you can verify a story.