Pat Cassidy chuckles when she tells the story of receiving a seniors-targeted phone scam — just because it was so ridiculous — but says it’s important to let seniors know about such incidents.
There are people out there losing thousands of dollars to scams, and seniors embarrassed to admit they’ve been victims, the Williams Lake senior says.
“This female voice said ‘hi grandma.’ I’ve only got one granddaughter so I said, ‘Hi Paige. How are you?’ I got so excited I started asking her some questions,” Cassidy says of the scam call.
She asked her if she’d gone with her mom to buy some new shoes, and the caller said she had and described them.
Then she proceeded to tell Cassidy she was in Montreal.
That her friends were going to Montreal to a wedding, and had an extra plane ticket because a friend could not make it at the last minute.
“Since the passage was paid for, they brought me to Montreal,” the caller said.
Moments later, the caller asked if she could share a secret with Cassidy, and by then Cassidy realized something was amiss. Aware of phone scams, however, she thought perhaps she could keep the caller on the phone until her husband returned home and he could help her trace the call by using his cellphone.
The caller proceeded to explain her plight to Cassidy.
“I was driving this car and another car drove in front of me and I had a bit of an accident. I was driving because my friend had too much to drink and she asked me to drive,” the caller explained, and by this time Cassidy was biting her lip. Her granddaughter, after all, is only 11 years old.
The caller told her the good news was the judge was letting her off scott free, that she would not have anything on her driving record, but the bad news was she had to pay for the damage to the car.
Cassidy asked if she had the money, to which the caller replied she did, but needed it immediately.
“I can pay you back tomorrow, she told me, and asked if I could talk to her lawyer,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy told her to ask the lawyer to call her back and she hung up the phone.
The lawyer did call her back, yet when she asked for his name, he said “Mickey Mouse.” He knew she was on to him, she figures.
Immediately she called the RCMP to report the scam and told her to tell all her friends to make them aware of similar scams.
It’s an old scam, yet 170 seniors have reported scams, she says.
Two or three days later her husband got a call too and when he heard the voice say “grandpa,” he got angry and hung up the phone.
“To think that some seniors are taken in is sad,” Cassidy says.
Sgt. Richard LeBeuf of the Williams Lake RCMP says they get the odd call once in the while but not on a regular basis.
“We direct those that do call us to contact the Phone Busters Program. I believe as a result of public notices and articles the public are getting wiser when it comes to these scams. They know that if it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is not true,” LeBeuf says.
The city’s safer communities co-ordinator Dave Dickson gets the odd report as well as his association with business watch.
Dickson recently circulated a Top 10 list of scams and financial elder abuse was listed as number four.
The abuse occurs when seniors’ pocketbooks are exploited by scammers who take advantage of a person’s vulnerabilities associated with age — like hearing loss, loneliness, physical limitations and impaired mental capacity.
“Common financial elder abuse frauds include tricking seniors into giving out private banking information; encouraging unnecessary home repair work, telemarketing and mail fraud; and swindles by family or friends that result in seniors giving up money, property, personal information and decision-making capacity,” the list stated.
Most elder abuse happens to a senior by someone they know, such as a family member, friend or caregiver.
Many victims do not even realize they have been taken advantage of.
Signs a senior is being financially abused include: missing belongings, unusual activity in bank accounts, suspicious stories, sudden changes in Power of Attorney or Wills, bounced cheques and numerous unpaid bills.
Report all incidents of financial elder abuse to your local police.