Financial Crimes investigators stepped in just in the nick of time to help a senior citizen recover a significant sum of money that was headed to lottery scammers.
Acting on an anonymous tip, the Financial Crimes investigators discovered that the 85-year-old woman sold her home and sent about $400,000 to an account in Peterborough.
“When the account holder was interviewed, we found out that he was used in the scheme as well,” said Detective Al Spratt. “We were able to stop him from touching that money, we got the credit unions involved and we contacted the Office of the Public Trustee to do an investigation and hopefully take over her finances.”
Spratt said that United States law enforcement is part of the ongoing investigation.
This is the third time Toronto Police has been involved in an investigation with the same woman, who is in declining health.
In 2014, her financial planner alerted investigators that she was withdrawing large sums of money.
“She told him she was taking out money from her retirement savings because she was being told it was to pay fees for a lottery she had won,” said Spratt. “He contacted us, an occurrence was generated and officers were sent to her home. When they got there, she related that one of the suspects said he was a lawyer and she believed him.”
Spratt said the scammers were contacting the woman daily.
“They obviously realized she was alone and widowed and had no close friends,” he said. “This is why they really zeroed in on her and spent a lot of time.”
The officers found out she had made 14 Western Union transfers amounting to almost $28,000.
Despite telling her to stop sending money to the scammers, she persisted.
Ottawa Police contacted their Toronto counterparts two years ago, informing them she had sent money to someone in the nation’s capital.
“This person she had sent the money to was also a victim of a lottery scam,” said Spratt. “This is common as fradulent telemarketers tell victims that they are getting money from a lottery company, but the money is actually an advancement on their winnings to pay some of kind of taxes. What they are doing is sending money from one victim to another.
“In this case, we are aware of a one-time payment of $10,000 she sent and, this time, Victim Services got involved to follow up with support for her.”
TPS Financial Crimes wishes to remind people of the resources available to them to help identify fraud scams. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is available for victims or persons targeted by fraudsters to report the incident online or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.
Victims of fraud should also report the incident to their local police service.
Anyone with information, questions or concerns regarding this incident should contact Detective Spratt at 416-808-7300.
Anyone with information can also contact Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477), online at 222tips.com, text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637), or Leave A Tip on Facebook.