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Fraudsters target Whitehorse senior

Two German-speaking con artists duped a retired Whitehorse man into transferring $4,000 to them last week.

Two German-speaking con artists duped a retired Whitehorse man into transferring $4,000 to them last week.

The man, 73, originally from Germany, did not want to give his name for fear of being targeted again as he is listed in the phonebook.

He received three calls last week from two men. One posed as his nephew, and the other as a lawyer in Germany.

“(The nephew) said he was going to buy a house and needed some extra money. And in three minutes somebody would phone me and figure out the details,” the man said.

His supposed nephew asked for $4,000 to buy the house as surprise gift for his mother, who is the Whitehorse resident’s sister in Germany. The senior does not have caller ID so he does not know if the calls were actually from Germany.

Having not spoken to his nephew in 20 to 30 years, he said he wasn’t sure it was really him. But he said he believed it was urgent. A “lawyer” spoke to him after his nephew did, claiming that they needed the money right away, in cash.

This first call took place on Tuesday at 7 a.m. The senior said he believed they really required the money immediately because it would have been 4 p.m. in Germany, just before close of business.

He then went to Royal Bank and withdrew the lump sum and wired the money through Money Mart to his so-called nephew.

Only after he made the transaction did he think twice. He called and emailed his sister asking if she knew anything about her son’s surprise to buy her a house.

On Wednesday, his sister confirmed that his nephew, who also happens to be a doctor, did not do any such thing. The man knew his nephew had a stable job, but said he only thought of that as a red flag after the fact, he said.

When the two German-speaking men called back on Wednesday, he decided to “trick” them back, he said. He asked the man posing as his nephew what the name of his wife was. The man got it wrong.

He then told the callers he’s not comfortable forking over more money. They tried again for a third time on Thursday morning. Both calls took place around 9 a.m.

The senior reported the incident to the RCMP. Spokesperson David Gilbert said he cannot comment on the case specifically but advises anyone who feels they have been scammed to call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. It works with police to document and educate the public on scams, and when possible, attempt to recover lost money.

The scam the old man has been through is described as an emergency scheme, sometimes referred to as a “grandparent scam,” according to the centre’s website. Callers pose as family members claiming they need money for a car accident, return fare from a foreign country, or bail.

“Victims don’t verify the story until after the money has been sent as the caller specifically asks that they do not want other relatives to know what has happened,” the website states.

In the summer of 2008, 317 complaints of such a scheme were reported to the centre.

Few phone scams have been reported in the territory this year. Only one person reported losing over $5,000 and five people lost under that amount in phone fraud, Gilbert said in an email.

The elderly man isn’t likely to recover his $4,000. “Unfortunately, when you send money by wire transfer, the criminals can pick it up anywhere. As soon as it’s retrieved, your money is gone,” the centre states on its website.

Gilbert echoed that. “Phone scams and many other types of fraud are very difficult to investigate, particularly if they originate in other countries,” he said.

Eric Clement, a spokesperson for NorthwesTel, could not confirm if the phone calls were international, as revealing the phone calls’ origin would breach privacy issues.

To report fraud call 1-888-495-8501 or email

Contact Krystle Alarcon at