Every year hundreds of Canadians get scammed by people claiming to need help and it's easy to get tricked. Just ask a North Delta couple who got cheated by someone, they thought was a relative.
“I thought it was legitimate at first because we get that all the time,” said David Inch, who says he’s got a lot of family in the Philippines and often sends money via Western Union to help them out.
So when his wife Felipa was on Facebook one evening and got an instant message from her niece asking for help they didn’t hesitate.
“It’s an emergency to pay for the hospital bill. Can I borrow $300 or $150?” she said, reading the message to CTV News.
The money was supposed to go to someone she knew who would accept it and pay the bill for her.
Inch sent $250, then they learned the truth.
They say the niece’s Facebook account had been hacked. Inch said he immediately reported the fraud to Western Union to let them know about it.
“We call it an emergency scam,” said Jeff Thomson with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Each year the centre receives hundreds of complaints about it.
“These scams play on people’s emotions - they come in from people you know, they highlight instances of urgency,” said Thomson.
Often the claims involve a friend or family member who is traveling: claims of being in a car accident, and of lost or stolen wallets and they need the money right away.
Before you send any money, try to find a way to contact the person directly or confirm with other friends or family if that person is indeed traveling and in need of help.
“My niece had 1,300 friends and he keeps on sending messages to ask for money,” said Felipa.
Apparently, the culprit who hacked Felipa’s niece’s account hit up other family members, who took the bait too, getting an additional $600 from them.
Felipa says her niece has now changed her Facebook password but says she didn’t want to talk to CTV News about it.
Inch said he wasn’t expecting to get his money back from Western Union but after he reported it, he was blocked from sending any more money through the service.
“I’ve sent thousands and thousands of dollars through Western Union. Never had a problem. Never,” he said.
CTV News reached out to Western Union who looked into it further. The company has several protocols in place to help protect customers from fraud, including a way for you to block a family member from sending money, if you think they are being defrauded.
After some back and forth emails between Western Union, CTV News and Inch, he was able to get his privileges to send money restored.
However, if he’s victimized again, it’s possible he could be suspended a second time.