Calgary senior hangs up on scammer impersonating a loved one in trouble

Click to play video: 'Calgary senior calls out scammer impersonating loved one to get money'
Calgary senior calls out scammer impersonating loved one to get money
A Calgary senior has foiled a scammer’s attempt to get thousands of dollars from him by pretending to be a loved one in need of help. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, cyber-security experts say new technologies are leading to more scams – May 19, 2024

A scam-savvy Calgary senior is warning others after fraudsters tried and failed to con him out of thousands of dollars.

Michael O’Reilly received a call a couple of weeks ago from a young man, pretending to be his nephew. “Hi. Do you know who this is?'” the caller asked him. “Do you not know me, Uncle Mike?”

The caller said he was O’Reilly’s nephew, Patrick, and then went on to spin what’s become a very common scammer’s tale of woe.

“I’ve been in a car crash, and I broke my nose and that’s why you don’t recognize my voice,” the caller said. “But I’m in jail and I need some money. I just have to pay $6,000 to get released. So I was just calling to see if you could help me out in any way?”

Michael O’Reilly plays a recording of a scam call. Global Calgary

O’Reilly said he started to get suspicious and that’s when he began recording the call. He also started pressing the caller about why he called him — and not his nephew’s immediate family.

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“I’d be embarrassed to talk to my family,” the caller told him.

But O’Reilly didn’t stop — mentioning the name “Tom”, Patrick’s “real” father — repeatedly.

The scammer then asked for Tom’s number. “You should know your dad’s number off by heart for f*** sake. What’s wrong with ya?,” ” O’Reilly said.

The scammer then hung up and so did O’Reilly, and while he said he knew it was a scam all along, he says the caller was very convincing.

“It sounded very like (my nephew),” he added. “Probably with a broken nose — but it did sound quite like him. He played me along really well I thought.”

Senior scams on the rise

Grandparent or “loved one” scams have been conning seniors out of a lot of money for years. According to the Calgary Police Service, since January, there have been approximately 32 incidents reported to police where senior victims were targeted and defrauded of money.

Of those, 21 incidents involved a loss of money. In total the amount defrauded so far is approximately $180,250.

CPS said in nine incidents there was no money lost as the victims realized they were being scammed or the scam was interrupted.

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University of Calgary professor and cyber-security expert Dr. Ryan Henry told Global News the rise in technological advances have made things a lot easier for scammers — especially when it comes to impersonating someone.

“Voice mimicking technologies have come a long way,” he pointed out.

Henry said artificial intelligence (AI) can mimic someone’s voice, fooling people into thinking they’re speaking to the “real” person.

“Don’t try to determine if you’re talking to AI in real time,” he advised. “Just always act defensively. Try to find some way to verify before you actually take an action that could back to bite you. Even if you’re convinced that you’re talking to your nephew and he really needs help, insist on calling him back on his phone. If you’re talking to a scammer that’s impersonating him — they won’t be able to answer his phone.”

Henry also suggested people ask specific questions that fraudsters can’t easily guess the answers to.

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