In the end, all it cost a Vernon woman was 50 cents for parking.
But she was nearly out $1,100 after not listening to her instincts and coming close to falling for the grandparents scam.
On Sept. 25, the woman we’ll call Pam (did not want her real name used) received a call from her own mother, who explained that she had received a phone call from “Jennifer,” the mom’s granddaughter and Pam’s niece.
“The woman said, ‘Don’t you recognize me?’ When mom said, ‘Jennifer?’ the woman immediately started with her story,” said Pam.
“Mom did say that the person hadn’t sounded like Jennifer but she hadn’t spoke to Jennifer in months.”
Jennifer’s story was that she had been in a car accident and she needed help getting out of jail.
She said she hadn’t been hurt but was in custody because she had alcohol in her blood. She said she needed $895 to bail her out of jail, and that her lawyer, a Jacob Goldman, would be phoning back to explain the situation.
“My mom speaks three languages and English isn’t her first language, so when she needs some things explained, she calls me,” said Pam. “My instincts were telling me something wasn’t right but I didn’t listen to them.
“Never once did mom mention that Jennifer was her oldest granddaughter. Nor did she mention Jennifer’s last name. I fell for the scam hook, line and sinker.
“My primary concern was for my niece so all of my common sense went right out of the window which is what the police officer I talked to said that was what the con men were counting on.”
Pam spoke with Goldman who offered a more detailed explanation of Jennifer’s situation. He said Jennifer hadn’t called her parents because she was embarrassed to be in custody.
Pam was told to go to the main post office and obtain a moneygram for $985 (with fees bringing the total to $1,041), and send the money to Laval, Que.
It was a clerk at Canada Post who alerted somebody in Laval, Que. about this being a scam and the money was never processed.
All Pam paid for was 50 cents worth of parking near the post office.
“Thank God for her suspicions,” said Pam of the local postal clerk.
Pam phoned the real Jennifer and she confirmed she had been at work all day and had not been in an accident.
“That’s the call I should have made in the first place,” said Pam.
Goldman phoned Pam’s mom again and when he expressed concern about Jennifer being stuck in jail, Pam’s mom told him Jennifer could stay in jail and hung up on him.
Pam said Goldman sounded “very sympathetic and professional” throughout their conversations.
The family also has no idea how the callers obtained Pam’s mom’s name. Her phone number is listed under her husband’s name.
RCMP detachments in the Okanagan Valley receive a large number of calls regarding the grandparent scam on a regular basis.
“The grandparent scam or ‘emergency scam’ has been around for years,” said Kelowna RCMP Const. Kris Clark.
“Even if you truly believe the caller’s story, you should verify it by simply calling that grandchild or their parents, no matter how urgent they claim the situation to be. A few minutes to confirm the truth won’t hurt anyone.”
For more information about scams and how to report them, visit www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.