© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Nesbit Heights resident Frances Depeel holds up her recent bank statement showing $695 paid to ‘R.D. Associates’ after she received a call from someone claiming to be from Visa, who knew her Visa number and offered her a ‘deal.’ Depeel is warning other residents to be wary of similar phone scams.
A local woman who believes she was the victim of a phone scam is warning Prince Albert residents to keep an eye out for similar schemes in the future.
Retired Nesbit Heights resident Frances Depeel appears to have lost $695 after she received a call from an individual claiming to be with Visa, who correctly told her her personal Visa number.
The caller told Depeel, 82, that as a result of her good service and being a longstanding customer, they were going to offer her a deal in which -- by making one down-payment -- she would not have to pay any more interest going forward.
“Because they said they knew my Visa number, I thought I was talking to Visa,” she recalled.
Believing the offer to be legitimate, Depeel agreed to make a payment.
Shortly thereafter, she found that her next bank statement included $695 paid out to “R.D. Associates.”
“I phoned up Visa and I said, ‘What in the world are R.D. Associates?’ ‘Oh, it’s a clothing place.’ I said, ‘I haven’t bought any clothing.’”
Depeel then phoned the RCMP to report a fraud and was given a number for their Scams and Fraud section based in Ontario, who in turn put her in touch with credit reporting agency TransUnion Canada.
TransUnion flagged Depeel’s credit card number to prevent other people from using her identity, though by this point she had already changed her number.
Contacting Visa directly, Depeel spoke to a company employee who she said informed her that this particular scam was a fraud operating out of England that had amassed a large collection of numbers.
“She said ‘We don’t know how they got all these numbers, but they phone you and they already have your number.’ … I’m 82 years old and I’ve had a stroke, so to me it sounded like Visa,” Depeel said.
Worried that there might be many others out there like herself, who assume that the caller must be legitimate because they know the recipient’s Visa number, Depeel decided to bring her story public.
If Visa is familiar with a fraud operating out of England, Depeel asked, “Why are they not sending notices to everybody that has a Visa? … Because people aren’t aware.”
In an email, Visa Canada public relations specialist Christine Gondos noted that “Visa does not contact cardholders to request their personal account information.”
The company advises cardholders to forward any Visa phishing information, as well as any future phishing emails or scams that appear to come from Visa, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because they said they knew my Visa number, I thought I was talking to Visa. Frances Depeel
Reporting such incidents is equally important from the perspective of local law enforcement, whether through municipal police forces or the RCMP in rural areas.
“The biggest thing is they absolutely report it to the police,” Prince Albert Police Sgt. Brandon Mudry said.
“There’s no guarantee in regards to … solving the crime, but let us know that it’s occurring so we can make the public aware. That’s the most important thing.”
Mudry noted that seniors are a favourite target of scammers.
As an example, he cited reports in which fraudsters contact an elderly person and, posing as friends or legal representatives of their grandchildren (or in some cases, the grandchildren themselves), make up a story in which they find themselves in trouble and request that the victim wire money over.
“Unfortunately, sometimes that does occur, and in that case, there’s very little recourse for the victim in that situation,” Mudry said.
“But again, we encourage people just to simply report it. Just let us know it’s occurring so we can … make the public aware that it’s happening.”
On the positive side, Depeel said Visa informed her that she would be receiving her money back.
In the meantime, she is warning P.A. residents to be careful of receiving similar calls, which can be difficult to distinguish from the real thing.
“They talk so officially and they don’t have an English accent …and they don’t have a Pakistani accent,” Depeel said. “Their voice sounds just like Visa … and very, very precise.”
Pondering the identity of the scammer, she wondered whether it might be a former employee of Visa while entertaining other possibilities.
“With all the hacking that’s going on -- I mean, they get into government files all the time. Why can’t they get into Visa files?” she asked.
“So if somebody gets a phone call and they already know your Visa number, beware.”