Vancouver police are issuing a warning and releasing surveillance video showing what they're calling an alarming new scam that tricks seniors into thinking their loved ones have been arrested and convinces them to hand over thousands of dollars.
The scam was first reported to police Jan. 12, when a West Side couple in their 70s received a call from a man who claimed their nephew had been in a car accident and needed $8,000 to get out of jail, according to a statement from Vancouver police.
The video shows a male suspect identifying himself as "Chris from the courthouse," arriving at the victims' door. When the couple questions how quickly he arrived to collect the money, he tells them he had already been scheduled by the court to drop by for the cash.
In the background, the couple is still on the phone with the original caller who tells them "Chris" should be arriving soon.
In just under three minutes, the suspect at the door leaves with a white envelope containing the $8,000.
"It's not uncommon for scammers to target the elderly by contacting them by mail, telephone, or online," said VPD Const. Tania Visintin. "What's different and concerning is that fraudsters are now showing up at the victims' doorsteps to collect cash. It's brazen, and we're concerned about people's safety."
Later that same day, a 75-year-old Kitsilano resident received a similar call telling her that her grandson had been in a car accident and had been jailed. Police said the scammers claimed the grandson needed $9,000 for bail. Again, the suspect arrived at the doorstep where the victim handed over the money.
Visintin said both cases are being investigated by the VPD's Financial Crime Unit, but she added it remains unknown if the scams are coming from an organized crime group, or it is is a smaller gang of individual criminals.
"Until we know more, we urge everyone to be cautious about strangers who ask for money," she added.
Anyone with information is asked to contact investigators at 604-717-0503.