Scam cons seniors out of savings for years: RCMP

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Burnaby RCMP are warning the public about a scam that has defrauded numerous seniors across the Lower Mainland.

So far six victims in Burnaby, Surrey and Langley have been been identified by police.

The trouble is, some victims refuse to believe they are victims.

"We have done our best to convince them that this is a scheme and that they will continue to lose significant amounts of money," said Burnaby RCMP Operations Officer Supt. Stephan Drolet in a press release. "Sadly, this story is not unique. This is why we are encouraging the public to share this story with their families, friends and acquaintances. It’s up to all of us to ensure our loved ones, especially those that are vulnerable, are protected against these financial vultures."

The Burnaby RCMP's economic crime unit learned about the scam in October 2013 but believe it started in 1999.

That's when a man thought he was awarded contracts to do work on a pipeline for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. The suspects instructed him to pay fees to get paid for the contracts.

But even though the man died seven years ago, his 88-year-old wife continued paying the fees believing the contracts she thought were worth $58 million, would be awarded.

She's lost most of her money to the con artists and eventually asked friends and associates to help her pay the fees, believing she'll share the proceeds with them one day.

Police said the woman believes she is communicating with real Nigerian officials.

"Many of these fraud rings use the names of real-life people to lend credibility to their stories," said Cpl. Danielle O’Brien of Burnaby’s economic crime unit. "The same names are used repeatedly by different fraud groups."

While similar scams were common in the early 2000s, their number dwindled as victims ran out of money or realized it was a fraud. But the fraud continues for the current victims.

"There is no shame in falling victim to a scam," said Drolet. "These people are extremely sophisticated and by their very nature, they prey on the vulnerable."

Anyone who has been victimized by the scam or who continue to pay into it are asked to call the Burnaby RCMP Economic Crime Unit at 604-294-7922 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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