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Banff RCMP say scammer came to 90-year-old’s door to collect money

“Banff seniors have been targeted in a couple of recent fraud events, with the MO being a version of the ‘relative in need’ scam.”
Banff RCMP2
The Banff RCMP detachment. RMO FILE PHOTO

A brazen scammer preying on the fears and vulnerabilities of Banff seniors tricked a resident in his 90s out of a significant sum of cash, alarmingly showing up on the elderly man's doorstep to collect the money.

Banff RCMP have issued an alert to seniors advising them of this variation of the so-called grandparent scam, in which a fraudster is posing as a local lawyer’s grandson, claiming to be detained in jail and urgently needing a large amount of money in order to get released.

Police say in one instance the scammer showed up on the doorstep of the man in his 90s on Friday night (May 31) after convincing him of the fake emergency and made off with a “fairly large amount of money”, while in another case arranged for a senior to send funds using cryptocurrency.

“The scam has been more brazen than the typical ones of this nature,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Buxton-Carr, the detachment commander of Banff RCMP.

“Banff seniors have been targeted in a couple of recent fraud events, with the MO being a version of the ‘relative in need’ scam.”

Police across the country are seeing a rise in criminals preying on fears of the elderly with what is known as grandparent scams. Grandparent scams occur when fraudsters pose as family members in trouble and persuade elderly victims to pay bogus fees or fines.

These scams can be highly effective in tricking seniors into sending money before they realize they have been deceived.

“It’s one where they exploit the trust and concern of seniors, so then they’ll contact the seniors, often by phone, posing as a grandchild or a relative and acting distressed,” said Banff RCMP Const. Yanik Frenette.

“They’ll fabricate urgent scenarios, like being arrested or experiencing medical emergencies and whatnot and say they need immediate financial assistance. They’ll use pressure and tactics like that until they get the senior to send money.”

In the recent scam underway in Banff, the fraudster calls or visits, pretending to be the grandson of a local lawyer and provides a false story that indicates he is in trouble and detained and needs a large sum of money immediately.

RCMP say the scammer then arranges to go to the senior’s home to collect the money.

“What we’ve had over the last week is repetitive calls and reports to us of this happening, and then on Friday night, we had a victim that actually fell for it,” said Frenette.

What is particularly concerning, said Frenette, is the scammer actually showed up on the doorstep of a vulnerable senior to collect the cash, which is untraceable.

“Usually we’ll see gift cards or a money transfer and whatnot so we can follow the money,” he said.

“But he showed up at the doorstep, presenting himself as the court’s collector.”

Mary Buckingham, president of Banff Seniors Society, said these phone scams are “quite frightening”, especially with someone coming to the door to pick up the money.

She said she will put a note on the seniors’ society web page to help warn people.

“It is a shame that fraudsters target older adults who often cannot afford to lose the money and are sometimes frightened for their grandchildren,” said Buckingham.

The police don’t know for sure if the scammer who is making the phone calls to local seniors is the same man who showed up on the doorstep of the Banff senior’s house on Friday night.

However, Frenette said a description provided to police indicates he was a tall black male, of medium build, and wearing a grey heavy pullover and a surgical face mask.

“We refer to them often as runners and meaning that it might not have been the one behind all of the phone calls,” said Frenette.

Banff RCMP is urging seniors to be cautious, imploring them not to give out personal information or money, to verify the story with a trusted family member or friend, and to contact 911 immediately.

“Imagine being an elderly person and then somebody shows up at their door… they might feel very scared of confronting that individual,” said Frenette.

Banff RCMP is continuing with the investigation.

Frenette encourages seniors to report any phone calls or visits related to the scam.

“Report back to us even if you didn’t lose any money … any question whatsoever, any red flag, you can call us,” he said.

“Any tip could help us further our investigation.”

In April, Ontario Provincial Police arrested 14 people who were facing up to 56 charges as part of an alleged grandparent scam that often targeted seniors, with the organized crime group costing victims over $2.2 million across Canada.

Aimed at seniors with a landline telephone, the group using the so-called emergency grandparent scam pretended to be an officer or a lawyer and claimed to have the victim’s grandchild or family member in custody.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) – a national police service that gathers intelligence on fraud across Canada and assists police with enforcement and prevention efforts – is tracking a number of other variations of emergency scams including those occurring by text message or social media.

“These frauds are a persistent and evolving threat to Canadians,” states an April press release from CAFC.

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