Too many seniors are being scammed out of their hard earned savings and assets.
In response to more than a dozen incidents involving Vancouver seniors scammed out of money this past winter, Detective Constable Mariya Zhalovaga and Acting Sergeant Robert Dairon are ramping up efforts to raise awareness among seniors in Vancouver.
These so-called “grandchild” frauds see scammers calling seniors and pretending to be their grandchild or niece/nephew. The scammers typically research their victim online ahead of time, often finding them on social media to learn their names, family members’ names, and even what their grandchildren refer to them as (Grandma, Granny, Nona, etc). Acting as a young family member, the scammer usually claims to be in trouble and requires money to get out of the troubling situation they find themselves in. In some cases, they ask for a money transfer right away, and in other cases they will ask the senior to visit their financial institution or transfer money or withdraw cash.
“It was heartbreaking to see that so many senior citizens in the Lower Mainland were targeted and lost thousands of dollars due to grandchild scams. As the Elder Abuse Investigator, I wanted to get the word out to seniors as I saw that this crime was occurring on a regular basis and it can have a devasting impact on their lives,” said Cst. Zhalovaga when we approached her recently about how the program was going.
Mariya and Robert have been speaking to seniors that were victimized in order to get their perspective on what information or resources may have helped them in recognizing the scams, and what financial institutions and the police can do to further prevent or reduce these occurrences in the future. What they discovered is that simple resources – such as printed pamphlets – would be the most helpful.
“Acting Sergeant Dairon and I met with many of the victims and families who were impacted by this scam. We sat in their homes and they shared devastating details about the incidents and how it impacted their lives. We took many notes and tips on what they thought would help get information out to the community and when we shared our thoughts about the tools we could create, they loved the idea.”
With support from the Vancouver Police Foundation, Mariya and Robert are now in the process of producing these materials. Once complete, they will engage in a robust awareness campaign using traditional and social media, financial institutions and word of mouth. Just last week, Mariya and Robert attended another VPF funded program, the Seniors Safety Fair, which had 500 attendees learn about how to keep themselves safe online and in real life.
When asked about what this program will mean to seniors and their families, Det/Cst Zhalovaga said that “this awareness project will have a very positive impact on seniors, their families and the community and will enhance public safety and fight crime. It will empower seniors to take action to protect themselves and help them avoid being exploited because they love their grandchildren.”
While financial institutions have employees that are trained to watch for signs that their clients are being victimized, some scammers have become more sophisticated in how their coach their victims ahead of time.
“People who work at banks play a critical role in fraud prevention,” said VPD Constable Tania Visintin. “They often know their elderly clients by name, know their routines and are sometimes the first people to realize when something doesn’t seem right.”
Anyone who has fallen victim to this crime or has information about such a crime is asked to call the Vancouver police non-emergency line at 604-717-3321.
If you would like to donate to programs that support Vancouver seniors, or any other VPD-initiated community program, please donate online or call us at 604.717.3700. Gifts of all sizes can make a difference.