• Stephanie O’Hanley

Fraud prevention lessons for West Island seniors


PHOTO BY STEPHANIE O’HANLEY

Station 1 community relations officer Jean-Pierre Lévis addresses seniors at a fraud prevention

talk held in Beaconsfield March 10.

During a ‘Protect Yourself Against Crime’ fraud prevention talk March 10 at the Beaconsfield Library, Station 1 Socio-community officer Const. Jean- Pierre Lévis, told the audience that while his talk was aimed at seniors, “It’s not necessarily only seniors - anybody can be targeted.”

More than 30 people showed up for the animated discussion, which lasted an hour and a half and covered a wide range of topics, including theft of purses and wallets left unattended in grocery carts, telephone scammers posing as Microsoft technical support, email fraud, safe Internet shopping and faux chimney sweeps. Lévis said police recently caught telephone fraudsters who targeted West Island seniors with a ‘Grandson’ fraud.

“Often seniors are disconnected from their grandchildren and don’t necessarily recognize their voice over the phone, so it’s very easy.” Lévis described a recent incident where fraudsters would say “Nana or Nanny” if they reached an English-speaking woman they guessed was a senior. Thinking it was her grandson calling, the woman would answer, “Billy, is that you?” and then the male fraudster would reply, “Yeah, it’s Billy, I’m kind of in a jam, Nana. I got arrested for D.U.I. last night,” he said “It could have been D.U.I., it could have been drug dealing, it could have been ‘I was drunk in a bar last night and I got into a fight and the police threw me in jail’,” Lévis said.

The faux grandson would tell the unsuspecting senior he needed bail and not to involve his parents and that he called his Nana because he knew he could trust her. The fraudster would tell the senior he also had parking tickets and needed $2000 to get out of jail, Lévis said. He would say he couldn’t come to the woman’s apartment because he was in jail but would make an appointment for a trusted “friend” to pick up the money and he would give the friend’s name and describe him. The “friend” would then retrieve the funds.

“To some of you this may seem like an extremely gullible person,” said Lévis. “You would be astounded at the amount of people that that worked on here in the West Island.” The solution? Ask questions that only your family members would be able to answer since people’s voices don’t always sound the same over the phone, and be skeptical of people passing themselves off as somebody else.

Beware of anyone soliciting your credit card or other financial information over the phone, for instance people who say you’ve won a cruise but need your credit card details so you can pay the taxes, Lévis said. As well, “banks will never contact you personally to get information about your bank account number, name and address,” he said, pointing out banks already have your personal information securely on file. If in doubt, phone your bank and find out if they were trying to reach you.

Lévis said a recent case of door-to-door fraud involved two uniformed men passing themselves off as fire fighters going door to door to make sure smoke detectors are functional. People would let them in and while one man distracted the woman who answered, the partner would raid her jewelry box and steal her valuables. “Do not let people inside your house unless they have iron-clad identification,” Lévis said. Verify their identity by phone before letting them in, he advised.

Lévis told the audience to “put your head on a swivel” and pay attention to people around them when entering PIN numbers at ATMs and shield the keypad with your hand, if necessary. He spoke of cases where a stranger offered to fix someone’s flat tire, one that they had likely caused, and “during the repair the accomplice steals your purse and runs away.”

He also cautioned against discussing any bank transactions or currency exchanges involving large amounts of cash as seniors have been targeted following these events in the past.

For more information, consult http://www.spvm.qc.ca/en/Seniors

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