Richmond woman falls victim to ‘Grandson scam’, loses $10,000

A Richmond grandmother who says she was scammed out of over $10,000 worth of cash and goods is hoping others won't fall for the same scheme.

A Richmond grandmother who says she’s been scammed out of $9,000 cash, and a valuable necklace, is hoping other seniors won’t fall victim to similar schemes.

It began in early February when 88-year-old Gretchen Schellenberg received a phone call from someone who claimed to be her grandson. She says the caller explained that he had been in a car crash while riding with someone who was wanted by police and was facing legal trouble.

“He says ‘Grandma, I love you so much, you’re the first person I thought of’,” Schellenberg told CityNews.

Gretchen Schellenberg

Gretchen Schellenberg, 88, says she was scammed out of over $9,000 in cash along with a valuable necklace as part of what police call the “grandson” scam. (Submitted)

After the initial call, she says another person, claiming to be an RCMP officer contacted her, telling her to put $5,000 in an envelope that will be sent to a judge.

“I was scared of walking that far with money. I never have that much money in my purse,” she said.

She was told to wait outside of her building for someone who gave her the codeword “blue,” which signalled they were the courier.

Asked to send money, necklace to Ontario

After the first bit of cash was withdrawn, Schellenberg says she was contacted a few days later by the same person claiming to be an RCMP officer, who said they needed another $5,000.

She says she only had about $4,000 to give, so she also included a pearl necklace that was given to her by her late husband for their 25th wedding anniversary which was worth about $1,500.

Gretchen Schellenberg

Gretchen Schellenberg, 88, says she was scammed out of over $9,000 in cash along with a valuable necklace as part of what police call the “grandson” scam. (Submitted)

The person claiming to be the police officer told her she needed to send the money in an envelope to an address in Toronto, which meant Schellenberg had to travel to Vancouver to a UPS depot.

Schellenberg says she was promised that she would get her money back after her grandson’s trial. Two days after that supposed trial was supposed to take place, she realized something was wrong when she saw a news story outlining scams targeting seniors.

After realizing she may have been scammed, she called her grandson, who said that he had not been in a car crash, nor was he in legal trouble.

“I couldn’t believe it. It’s like, ‘What happened to me?’,” she said.

The Richmond RCMP confirms that an incident “bearing similarities” with a case was reported on Feb. 23, involving an elderly victim who lost a “significant” amount of money and a necklace.

“This incident is actively being investigated. Similar incidents are being investigated by other police detachments and departments,” Cpl. Dennis Hwang said in a statement.

Mounties add what happened to Schellenberg appears to be what’s being called the “grandson” scam, which follows a formula.

“Suspects use high-pressure tactics aimed at convincing victims to send money in efforts to help a family member who is in trouble,” he said.

Police bodies across B.C. and the Lower Mainland have continuously come out with warnings about scams targeting seniors, along with some tips on how to avoid them. They include hanging up the phone on unknown callers and not giving out personal information over the phone.

‘It’s very stressful’

Schellenberg says that she and her family have worked with her bank in an attempt to get some of her money back, but is doubtful she will. She says the ordeal has left her feeling embarrassed, but wants others to know what scammers are capable of.

“Talk to people. You feel bad, you want to keep it in, but you need to talk about it so it doesn’t happen,” she said.

“I know there’s evil people in the world. I want them to be aware, you know, especially seniors, because they don’t know all this technology. That’s what’s happening, and I want everybody to know so it doesn’t happen to them. It’s very very stressful.”

Schellenberg adds since her ordeal, she’s learned many of her friends and family have also experienced similar calls from scammers posing as family members in trouble.

“It’s a crazy world out there, I just don’t understand how people can do things like that,” she said.

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