Be wary of sad-sack con artist around Wetaskiwin

Local financial institution warns of seniors bilked out of as much as $4,000 by sob-story approach

One of the nice things about living in a smaller, rural Alberta town is that residents tend to look out for each. In Wetaskiwin this week, a financial institution was doing just that for its clients and other senior citizens.

Encompass Credit Union contacted The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer May 16 to offer a warning to the community about a person who is approaching local citizens, mostly senior citizens, with a sob-story about family problems and requesting as much money as she can get.

According to Encompass marketing manager Kelly Clemmer, “Obviously we don’t give out the names of our members, but there’s been a woman that has scammed three of our senior members out of money.

“They’ve gone to the police afterwards (with Encompass’ help) and the RCMP say that they can’t do anything because the scammer is giving the seniors a sob story, and they are giving her cash, for one person, up to $4,000.”

An Encompass employee stated, “We are aware of three senior members who have fallen victim to a woman here in town. This woman known by the police goes to seniors home in the evening with a sad story such as mother is ill in the hospital in Edmonton and she needs money to fill her car with gas.

“Surprisingly, some seniors in the community believed her and she returns to their home and asks for more and more each time with a new story.”

That employee accompanied the members to the RCMP station to report the incident, but because the senior had given the money to this woman willingly, there is nothing they can do.

“We know for sure that two other of our members have been targeted by this woman. And perhaps many other community members.”

Contacted by The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer May 16, the Wetaskiwin RCMP detachment had advice for the community.

“We can confirm that these types of complaints have been made in Wetaskiwin,” stated Sgt. Corey Kyle in an email.

“They are commonly referred to as ‘heart string’ scams where the scammers use tactics to pull at the victim’s emotions. Prevention is key in frauds and we recommend that people do not give money to individuals they do not know.

“However, scammers are very believable and people generally want to help. If the you want to help someone asking for money for an emergency, ask a lot of questions to confirm the story. If you believe the story, determine a set amount that you would be comfortable with giving to a stranger that you don’t expect to get back.

“If you are suspicious of the persons or their story, or they return for more money, let them know you have nothing to give. Tell your friends and family about your experience to prevent them from becoming victims.

“If you suspect that you may be a target of fraud, or if you have already given funds, don’t be embarrassed – you’re not alone. If you want to report a fraud, or if you need more information, contact The Canadian Anti- Fraud Centre: www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/ or 1-888-495-8501.

Clemmer added, “It is unfortunate that members of our communities are targeted due to their big hearts and compassion, but it is true,” he said, speaking on behalf of Encompass Credit Union.

“It’s important that people are aware that some people’s stories sound believable, but they’re not, and they’re taking advantage of seniors and those who just want to help someone out that’s down on their luck. Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in now and we have to be skeptical of those requests, just like telephone scammers, they may be trying to take advantage of you.”

Stu.salkeld@pipestoneflyer.ca

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