Phone scam could end up costing victims half a million dollars: West Vancouver police

Police are sending out a warning about a specific phone scam that’s been making the rounds, and which could end up costing a West Vancouver couple half a million dollars.

West Vancouver police Const. Kevin Goodmurphy said it’s known as a “hang-up delay” scam. The con is carried out on a landline, and the victims think they are speaking to multiple people and making more than one call, but in fact, they are only connected to one person the entire time: the scammer.

“The scammer will either change their voice or they’ll have somebody else in the room with them and impersonate different people, from police officers to bank officials, eventually convincing the person that their money is not safe,” Goodmurphy said.

Goodmurphy said last week, on Oct. 6, a local couple got a call on their home landline phone from someone claiming to be a police officer who was looking into fraudulent activity on their debit card.

The victim was asked to call their bank using a number on the back of their card, and then spoke to someone who identified themselves as a fraud investigator. The scammer provided the victim with a “reference number” which they were told not to share with anybody, in order to protect the “internal investigation”. The victim was also directed to call 911 and ask for an “Insp. Mark Osborne.”

“Which is absurd, because no one would call 911, I’d hope, looking for an individual,” Goodmurphy said. “But again, they think they’re doing that, but because the call hasn’t disconnected it’s the same person on the other end of the line.”

After more calls, the victims became convinced their money wasn’t safe at the bank, and set up a wire transfer for $500,000. They later grew suspicious and called police.

Goodmurphy said police have yet to confirm if the money was actually transferred.

“We’re hopeful that for our victims’ sake, that the banks are able to put a halt on that,” he said. “(The scammers are) extremely convincing, they’re good at what they do and they continue to commit these crimes because they’re often successful.”

Goodmurphy told CTV News Vancouver on Wednesday there are other files involving this scam that are currently under active investigation, and over the past couple of weeks, some victims have lost money.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been getting a lot of phone calls about this particular scam with very similar circumstances,” he said. “This is something of concern for us.”

Police are reminding people never to transfer money to strangers who make contact through unsolicited phone calls, and always go to your bank in person to address any concerns.