'This is no joke': Calgary single mom warns others after getting scammed twice
CALGARY -- 32-year-old Katelyn George is a single mom who says she struggles to give her two boys the opportunities they need.
That is the vulnerability a pair of fraudsters traded on, and the important part of her cautionary tale: everyone can be manipulated by the right approach at the right time.
George was first defrauded through Facebook, where she was messaged and told she’d won $250,000 and a new truck in a contest. But when she went to claim the prize, she was told the truck was held up at the border by Canada Customs and she’d have to pay the duty to release it.
She’s too embarrassed to share how much she paid.
Calgary Police Fraud Unit investigator CST John Pye says online thieves are always looking for an angle, often either attempting to make a romantic connection, or by threatening, like in the popular Canada Revenue scam.
That's the one where a recorded voice calls and tells you there is a warrant out for your arrest because of outstanding tax issues. Call now or they can’t save you from the weight of the law. Of course, none of that is true.
Pye says alarm bells should go off anytime someone asks for money or personal information such as a date of birth or a social insurance number.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it is,” Pye says.
George was hit by a second scam. What appeared to be Hollywood action star Vin Diesel contacted her through direct messages, flattering her and started a romantic exchange of hundreds of messages.
There were vague plans to celebrate his birthday in Calgary together — but a critical piece of movie making equipment broke — he needed money to fix it and save his latest film. George would be the hero and get the leading man.
Instead she lost more money and had her heart bruised.
“This is no joke, this is somebody’s life that they’re toying with and so many other people’s lives,” George says.
Thieves often ask for the money in gift cards or crypto-currencies such as BitCoin, which are mostly untraceable. Add to that the culprits could be anywhere in the world, and it becomes nearly impossible for police to make any arrests.
Even if it's out of their jurisdiction, police still want attempted and successful scams reported to them. Tracking what’s out there gives investigators a chance to learn about emerging techniques and technology, as well as stopping some before they’re successful.