Don Lepine says he didn’t think twice about coming to the aid of his grandson last week, after picking up the phone to hear that the 21-year-old had been put in jail following an impaired-driving incident.
But after an alert bank teller recognized the signs of a scam – ultimately saving Lepine from losing $5,000 – the grateful South Surrey senior says he wanted to share his story in the hopes it will prevent others from being duped.
“I’m 75 now, but I’m pretty sharp when it comes to this kind of stuff,” Lepine told Peace Arch News last Tuesday. “I never believed I would get as far as the bank when I started thinking about it.
“Instead of thinking with my head, I thought with my heart.”
Lepine said the call came in the day before, around 10 a.m. Aug. 27, with the voice on the other end of line claiming to be his grandson. The caller identified himself by name, knew the type of vehicle Lepine’s grandson drove, and attributed a difference in the sound of his voice to a nose injury sustained in the purported accident, Lepine said.
Lepine was told a lawyer would be calling next.
That caller “says the only way the judge is going to let him out… was to post a $5,000 bond,” Lepine said.
Armed with a name and account number for where to send the funds, Lepine said he headed to his bank and made the withdrawal, explaining to the teller that he had to “go bail my grandson out, he’s been in an accident.”
“She said, ‘Really?’ She says, ‘that’s usually all done in the court building and it’s done with a cheque or money order in the courthouse.’
“So I started thinking. Then, instead of going to the (next) bank, I went down to the police station.”
Lepine said it didn’t take long from that point to confirm that his grandson wasn’t in custody, that there hadn’t been an accident and that whoever had called was not who they said they were.
While he was spared the $5,000 loss – for which he returned to the bank with a bouquet of flowers for the savvy teller – he’s worried others may not be so lucky.
“I’m 75, and when you hear something about your grandson, your heart goes into overdrive, but your head don’t think,” he said, noting he has recognized other phone scams and gave those callers a piece of his mind.
Monday’s experience “was very smooth and well-orchestrated,” he said.
“They sounded like this was for real.
“I can see other people… as they get older, not so sharp, and they can be taken advantage of.”
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), the ‘Emergency scam’ is among four currently targeting seniors.
The others include calls offering a lottery or sweepstake prize that require a fee to claim; service scams, which attempt to trick consumers into believing their computer has been hacked and needs repair; and romance scams, in which the scammer gains a victim’s trust reportedly from abroad, then asks to borrow money to cover travel costs in order to meet up.
Anyone who suspects they have been targeted, is encouraged to contact the CAFC at 1-888-495-8501 or www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca