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Castlegar senior loses almost $10K in phone scam

RCMP say 17 Castlegar residents have lost money to frauds so far this year
Castlegar RCMP report 17 locals have been scammed out of money in the last few months. Photo: Google Street View

A Castlegar senior is warning others to beware of telephone scams after she lost almost $10,000 to someone pretending to be her friend.

The 84-year-old woman, whose name we have agreed to withhold, enjoyed a visit from a long-time family friend from Australia towards the end of January.

A few days after the friend left Castlegar, the senior received a phone call from someone identifying themselves as the friend.

The senior said the voice sounded like her friend, right down to the Australian accent.

The caller claimed he was in Whistler and had accidentally hit a child with his car. He said he was facing criminal charges.

He also said the child needed surgery, but the child’s mother wanted to take him home to the Philippines for the surgery, rather than have it done in Canada.

The scammer said he needed $2800 to pay for the surgery.

The pitch was that because all of his money was in Australia, he couldn’t get cash fast enough. So could she please loan him the money and send it right away through a Money Mart wire transfer. He promised to repay the loan quickly.

The senior went to the Castlegar Money Mart and sent off $2800.

A few days later, she got another call. This time, her “friend” needed $4200 for a lawyer. So once again, she sent the money.

Three days later the scammer called saying that he needed $2200.

This time, when the senior went to her bank to get the money, the bank teller warned her that it sounded like a scam. So she delayed sending the money.

But after another three days passed, the scammer called again with a desperate plea.

“If I don’t have the money, I will be sent to jail and I will never be allowed to return to Canada again,” he said.

So, the senior sent the money.

At this point, she was finally able to contact her real friend, who had been travelling. Now skeptical, she confirmed his identity by asking him some personal questions.

He had no idea about the calls or the money.

The senior then realized that she had sent $9200 to a scammer.

She contacted local police and her bank, but discovered that because she had willingly withdrawn the money from her account, there wasn’t really anything they could do to retrieve the money.

RCMP Sgt. Monty Taylor says that local police get a scam report almost daily.

Most of those people are just reporting an attempted scam, but Taylor says 17 locals have lost money already in 2024. Some have lost more than $10,000.

While Taylor says the police look into the reported frauds, scammers are very difficult to track down.

Top local problems include:

• Romance scams, where after building a relationship for months you are asked to send money to pay for travel needs or something else;

• Extortion after sharing an intimate image with someone you think you know, but it turns out to be a stranger threatening that they will share the image with your friends and family;

• Automated calls from someone pretending to be Amazon wanting confirmation of a purchase, but seeking credit card information;

• Someone pretending to be a family member or friend sick or in trouble;

• People pretending to be Canada Revenue Agency and making threats of fines or imprisonment.

Taylor suggests that people do not send Money Mart transfers or payments by gift cards to people, as requests for these types of payments are frequently scams.

“If you are in doubt, contact the RCMP or a family member,” recommends Taylor.

“Prevention is the biggest thing and talking about it. Talk to your friends, talk to your relatives and share stories.”

Taylor says talking about the current scams and fraudulent calls happening in the community can help to alert others.

Scam prevention workshops and tips

In order to educate the community on recognizing and avoiding scams, Castlegar senior’s service provider IRIS (Increasing Recreation Involving Seniors), will be offering two workshops in the coming weeks.

Originally planned as one event on March 28, the workshops were expanded to two dates after more than 85 people signed up in just a few days.

The second workshop will take place on April 5. Both events will take place at IRIS’s usual venue, the Kinniard Park Community Church, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Registration is required by calling 250-608-0706 or emailing

The government of Canada offers the following tips:

• Never send money to someone you don’t know or trust

• Never send money or pay a fee to claim a prize

• Ask for identification and be assertive

• Don’t be pressured to act immediately. Take the time to do your research.

• Beware of free downloads and requests for passwords.

• Say no. If you receive a suspicious email, delete it. If you question the legitimacy of a telephone call from an unfamiliar source, hang up. If you get something in the mail asking you to forward personal information or credit card details, throw it away.

• Trust your instincts; they could save you from becoming the victim of fraud.

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Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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