When 22-year-old Giulia Hallais moved to Calgary from Brazil 10 months ago, she never expected she’d be the victim of a common Canadian scam.
But that’s exactly what happened to the international student.
Hallais got a call that her social insurance number had been compromised. The caller, supposedly from a government agency, told her in order to prove she wasn’t responsible for the suspicious transactions, she’d have to send them all her savings.
“I was just saying, ‘Oh I didn’t do anything wrong,'” Hallais added. “And they were, ‘Ok you have to prove it.'”
Hallais said every time she questioned them, she was yelled at and told she was disrespecting the government. She was also passed on to who she thought was a Calgary police officer, who reiterated she could be arrested and sent out of the country if she didn’t follow all of their instructions.
“I was really scared and I was crying a lot because I was afraid of getting deported,” she added. “I just wanted to finish my studies here in Canada.”
The aspiring chef and part-time server did what they asked. She went to a Bitcoin machine and deposited the money — her entire life savings.
“It was everything that I had. It was $3,500.”
Hallais said the caller told her once they confirmed that was all of her money, a police officer would come to her home the next day with the same amount and a new SIN number.
When that didn’t happen, she called police and found out it was a scam.
“I felt stupid,” she said.
Hallais said what made her finally think it was legitimate was the call from a number showing it was the Calgary Police Service. She now knows it was not the actual police.
“They even faked the police numbers.”
Calgary police Det. James Grossklaus said so-called spoofing is somewhat common and it’s concerning to know the CPS non-emergency line number was used.
But he added people should be aware that if they do not have any dealings with a specific government agency or the police — the call is likely fake.
“Why would someone be calling you? And asking for money?” Grossklaus said. “Normally all of these agencies just wouldn’t randomly call you and ask for money.”
“If a legitimate agency wants to get a hold of you for whatever reason they will do it the proper way.”
Grossklaus also added if you have any inkling a call is fake or a scam, run it by someone else you trust to get their opinion, or call the police and report it.
The Brazilian student’s co-workers at Jamesons Pub Brentwood were outraged she had been scammed.
“I think it’s awful,” pub manager Samantha Clement said. “It’s horrible they picked on someone so vulnerable.”
They’re now acting on that outrage, stepping up to help her out.
“A lot of the staff has been donating either through GoFundMe or just putting aside some of their tips for the day. All the regulars have been donating as well.”
Hallais said she can’t believe how Calgarians have been rallying around her, restoring her faith in humanity.
“My family and I, we cried so much because of all the love I’ve been receiving.”
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre also recently put out an alert for this new twist to an old scam, adding it has received reports from victims.
It warns that the phone numbers being displayed are fake and people who provide their personal information to fraudsters are at risk of identity fraud.