Cloverdale senior hit by team scammers, swindling her out of $15,000

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Joanne thought she was careful with the internet and technology, but by the end of the day on July 6, the 93-year-old was exhausted and had been scammed out of $15,000.

Like too many elderly people, this mother of two and grandmother of two has fallen victim to scammers.

Joanne sat down at her computer that morning to do some online banking.

“I was trying to get into the computer, and weird things were happening,” she said.

What appeared to be antivirus protection was sending warnings.

“All the signs seemed legit,” she explained.

Then the phone rang, claiming to be the fraud division of Coast Capital Savings and that two new accounts had been opened in his name.

One account contained $1,764 and the other $2,679.

The cell phone showed the call coming from Coast Capital, but Joanne has since learned that scammers can manipulate the display of calls.

The caller said they needed Joanne’s help to catch the scammers “and they had to be very secretive”, she said. For every question she had, they seemed to have a sensible answer.

The Cloverdale resident was advised not to tell anyone what she was doing because they were unsure if the fraud was being carried out by someone at the credit union.

To help catch the “fraudsters”, Joanne was asked to transfer money.

“I was asked to transfer $20,000 from my savings to checks,” she explained.

Then she had to withdraw the money.

“I had to have them on the phone all the time,” she said.

Joanne went to the branch of her credit union where the staff questioned her withdrawal.

“I was told to say [the large withdrawal] was for personal use,” she explained.

There were two con artists throughout the day – Syd and Sophia – who kept her busy and what she realized later was in an emotional whirlwind that didn’t allow her to think straight.

“You don’t have a minute to double check,” she commented.

The scammers trained her on how to take photos with her mobile phone and made her send photos of her driver’s license.

Joanne thought the threat to her was due to the large amount of cash she had on her person, not the person on the other end of the line.

Back in his car with the withdrawal, he was told to go to a Cloverdale Circle K and put the money in a bitcoin machine. The store clerk tried to warn him.

“The gentleman at the store said ‘Mom, you’re being scammed,'” she said.

Joanne’s unfamiliarity with bitcoin may have saved her some of her money. Throughout, all the scammers said her money was safe and she would get it back, even when she questioned putting thousands of dollars in a bitcoin machine.

“Every time I asked the question, [the reply was] ‘don’t worry. You will be able to access your money,” she said.

The crooks had told Joanne to destroy the bitcoins and other receipts. She crumpled them up but then decided to keep them, as it was the only proof she had that she had deposited the money as instructed.

She was only able to put in $10,000 and then had trouble with the machine. The scammers told him to go to Circle K in Willoughby to submit the rest. She invested $5,000 before having problems with this machine. She was going to deposit the remaining $5,000 in the morning.

What had started around 9:30 a.m. had dragged on until almost dinner time.

“They just wore me out. I hadn’t eaten,” she said.

Joanne said she stopped by to call her daughter, a daily evening practice. The scammers told her not to, but she said that if she didn’t, her daughter would be suspicious.

Joanne called her daughter, Jennifer, who had gone out to dinner with a friend.

“I asked where she was and she said she couldn’t talk about it but don’t worry she would explain later,” Jennifer said.

Joanne’s response immediately set off alarm bells for Jennifer.

Her daughter went to her mother’s apartment but Joanne was not home yet.

“I thought maybe she was with the police,” Jennifer said.

It’s because of what she saw on her mother’s dining room table – bank and fraud papers. Jennifer also looked at her mother’s computer.

“The first thing that popped up was ‘bitcoin,'” she said. “And I knew something was seriously wrong.”

She phoned the police looking for her mother who arrived home around the time and always maintained she could not tell her daughter what was going on. So Jennifer put the police on speakerphone and they confirmed that Joanne had been scammed.

” No no no. She was adamant,” Jennifer said of her mother.

The police advised him to shut down the computer and freeze all financial accounts. It was then around 7:45 p.m. and the financial institutions were closed. His only chance that day was to manage to catch someone at the telephone bank office about to leave for the day. But this person stayed and froze his accounts.

Joanne was finally able to admit that she had been the victim of fraud.

The police said they couldn’t do anything about it.

“It broke my heart,” she said.

She went to her credit union the next day and, while she investigated, said she would not provide her with the results. He was told that if someone called claiming to be from a financial institution, to hang up and call them directly and ask if anyone was trying to get in touch.

Joanne took her computer and was told it had two viruses, which seems to be how scammers get to her.

She still has text messages on her phone from the scammers about the great job she was doing.

Joanne is typical of many older people – she has lived a full life and is not a stupid person.

“I worked in an office and ran a business,” she explained.

But she was blindsided by people honing their scam skills because it pays off when they can get easy money from old people. It took him years to save so much money.

She worked hard all her life in order to have security in her old age.

“I worked hard for my money, and that’s why it hurts even more,” she said.

Getting scammed, she admitted, shook her to the core. That’s why she asked that her real name not be used. She has suffered from depression and several crying spells since the incident.

Looking back, what would have brought her back to reality and prevented the fraud?

Joanne probably didn’t say anything.

“I just felt like I was in a stupor,” she said.

She hopes sharing her story will raise alarm bells for others when they are targeted by scammers.

“They’re so convincing,” she said.

Joanne suggests not using the computer and having it checked by experts for viruses. She also advises people to question everything.


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The scammers told their local victim to destroy the bitcoin receipts, but she decided to keep them. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

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