A quick-thinking Canadian grandmother turned the tables on a pair of would-be scammers who tried to take her for thousands of dollars this week.
Windsor, Ontario, police arrested the two men after 74-year-old Bonnie Bednarik set up a trap of her own. The two scammers tried to steal some $9,300 in a “grandparents scam” aimed at the elderly. But Bednarik called police, who set up a surveillance operation outside her home and caught the scammers, along with the spoils of previous schemes.
At a press conference with police on Thursday, Bednarik recounted the conversation she had with the scammer, who called her on Wednesday pretending to be her grandson. “I said, ‘Who is this?’” she recalled, via the CBC. “And he said, ‘Come on. It’s your grandson.’”
“He said he was in jail,” she continued. “He said he got into an accident with his friend, Dave. It was Dave’s car. He found pills in the glove compartment. He was arrested, and he was in jail, and he needed the bond money. … And he had a few tears, and he told me he loved me.”
The scammer said he needed $9,300 Canadian, about $6,800 U.S., for bail money. It was the third such call she had received in a year. Bednarik sprang into action. She addressed the scammer by a name that was not her grandson’s, then bought some time by telling him she needed to call her bank and make sure she could take out such a large sum of money all at once. The scammer said he’d call back in 15 minutes. Instead of calling the bank, she called the police.
“And then I bought another hour because I told him my husband wasn’t home, and I needed the car to go get the money,” she said. Police then set up “static surveillance” around her home. When the two scammers showed up to Bednarik’s house to collect the cash, police intercepted and arrested them. They then recovered two more packages with money from two previous scams, a police press release stated.
“I was so happy to hear that they caught them,” Bednarik said.
The two suspects have each been charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000.
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So-called “grandparent scams” target elderly citizens and have become common in recent years in the U.S., as well as Canada. “Grandparents often have a hard time saying no to their grandchildren, which is something scam artists know all too well,” a public service announcement from the FCC states. “Scammers who gain access to consumers’ personal information – by mining social media or purchasing data from cyber thieves – are creating storylines to prey on the fears of grandparents. The scammers then call and impersonate a grandchild in a crisis situation, asking for immediate financial assistance. The callers may ‘spoof’ the caller ID that appears on the recipient’s phone to make an incoming call look like it’s coming from a trusted source.”
Both Bednarik and local police officials urged others to call police when they think they are being scammed. “I want people to call us so that way, we know what’s going on, and then obviously we can take whatever course of action we’re going to take,” said Sgt. Rob Durling of the Windsor Police Service’s financial crimes unit.