Phone scammers spoofing numbers to fool people into thinking their loved ones are at risk

Click to play video: 'Phone scammers spoofing numbers to fool people into thinking loved ones at risk'
Phone scammers spoofing numbers to fool people into thinking loved ones at risk
WATCH ABOVE: A Mississauga woman tells Global News she was almost fooled into paying $3,000 to free daughter. Mark Carcasole reports – Sep 27, 2017

It’s not something she’s proud of, but Virginia Jamil of Mississauga says it’s important to tell people that she almost gave $3,000 to a phone scammer.

She said the scammer convinced her that her daughter was in serious legal trouble.

“He is evil, he is the devil,” Jamil said, with tears welling in her eyes. “He needs to be caught.”

WATCH ABOVE: Quebec police impersonator tells woman ‘We have a really bad file on you’

Jamil’s 22-year-old daughter Alexis Jamil goes to school in Windsor, so most of the family’s contact with her is over the phone. When Virginia’s phone rang Friday morning, she thought it was a routine call from her daughter.

“So I said, ‘Hi Alexis, how are you?'”

Story continues below advertisement

The call took a very sour turn from there.

“They said, ‘This is not Alexis.’ I said, ‘Who are you?’ He said, ‘we have Alexis.’ I said, ‘Where’s my daughter? She’s okay?’ and he said, ‘Well, she got arrested. We’re from immigration and the police, we’re holding your daughter,'” Virginia recalled.

“I said, ‘Let me talk to my daughter.’ He said, ‘You can’t talk to your daughter.'”

The scammer on the other end, who Virginia said sounded very official and authoritative, told her she had to go to the bank and send $3,000 to free Alexis or they would potentially lock her up for 25 years. She said they also convinced her they were tracking her phone and could see her every move to make sure she didn’t go astray.

Virginia said she’s not the most tech- or law-savvy person. Even though her daughter was born and raised in Canada, which would rule out any immigration concerns, given where she goes to school she thought perhaps she ran into trouble while crossing the U.S. border nearby.

“Sometimes she can go across to visit friends or… to go shopping, and that’s why I was believing it,” Virginia said.

‘CAN YOU HEAR ME?’: Don’t say ‘Yes’ in new telephone scam

With the phone call still connected, Virginia rushed out of the house and got into her car, at first driving aimlessly, unsure of what to do. Finally, she said she made the decision to drive to the local Peel Regional Police station flagging two police officers and discreetly explaining the situation the man on the other end of the phone was putting her through. That’s when an officer took her phone and spoke directly to the fraudster.

Story continues below advertisement
“I heard the police officer say, ‘Who are you?’ And [the man on the phone] said he’s from the immigration police office, and [the police officer] said, ‘Well, give me your badge number.'”

Virginia said was enough to scare the fraudster into hanging up. She said it’s left her with lasting trauma. She says she feels a sense of panic every time the phone rings, especially when her daughter’s number comes up on the call display.

“It’s going to take a long time to clear it out from my mind. Every time now my kids call me I’m like, ‘Are you sure this is my son or my daughter?'”

READ MORE: Watch a tax scammer get caught in lies after threatening to arrest Wisconsin cop

It may seem like a new type of scam, but both law enforcement and cybersecurity experts say it happens more often than we hear about.

Just a couple weeks ago Global News received a report from a woman in York Region, who did not want to be interviewed on the record, of an incident in which she claims she received a call from her husband’s cell number.

Story continues below advertisement

When she answered, she said the person on the other end claimed to be the police and told her they arrested her husband, whom they mentioned by name.

The “officer” wanted to meet her at a bank, where he would have her take out money to pay for her husband’s release. Luckily she had a hunch it was fake and didn’t comply. She hung up on the scammer and called her husband who assured her he was fine.

READ MORE: New phone scam appears to be Airdrie RCMP calling

“It resembles a version of an emergency scam that are documented on a daily basis,” Peel Regional Police crime prevention services Const. Heather Cannon said.

“Caller ID spoofing has been on our radar for many years.”

Police advise anyone who feels they’ve been victimized by a phone fraudster to report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and to lessen your chances of being a victim by not giving out personal information or passwords over the phone.

Those tips may seem like common sense, but in the heat of the moment with the information fraudsters can sometimes have at their fingertips, that call can seem all too real.

“In most cases, you see these things (names, phone numbers, schools, locations, etc.) just posted publicly,” Sycomp global security manager Kellman Meghu said.

Story continues below advertisement

It’s possible the person who called Virginia Friday might have researched her daughter’s social media accounts first to build a convincing profile.

Once they have the information they need, Meghu said it’s not hard for anyone with a little know-how to use software that lets them mimic someone else’s phone number.

“Validate the person, not the phone number,” he urged.

READ MORE: Halifax international student says he lost $6,000 in telephone scam

“For example, you get the phone call from someone saying, ‘I’m so and so from your (mobile) carrier. I’d like to ask you a few questions.’ Say, ‘Great, what’s your switchboard number? I want to call you back. I want a piece of information that I can verify to validate.'”

Looking back now, Virginia admits feeling a little foolish for almost falling for the scam. But she said she’s telling her story to make others aware so they don’t learn a hard lesson the way she did.

“Do not believe it, go straight to the police and let police deal (with it),” she said.

Sponsored content