‘It’s like a jail sentence:’ After losing $8,700 to scam, 77-year-old P.E.I. man forced out of retirement

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All his life, John prided himself on being good with money and staying out of debt. At 77 years old, he recently retired with a comfortable reserve. 

But after a phone scammer ripped him off for $8,700, John, who SaltWire has chosen not to identify to avoid re-victimizing him, is back at work part-time and far less comfortable. 

It all started with a phone call from someone claiming to work for the Royal Bank of Canada’s security arm, John said in a July 7 interview.  

John said he was told his credit card account was showing two recent purchases of $300 and $1,100, and the “security” official wanted to know if John had made them. 

He hadn’t, he said. 

The caller then told him John had been the victim of fraud, but not to worry. The caller could simply cancel that card and give John a new number while he waited for a card to be mailed. 

The caller then told him John had been the victim of fraud, but not to worry. The caller could simply cancel that card and give John a new number while he waited for a card to be mailed. 


This was around 4:30 p.m. At 7 p.m., the bank “official” called back and told John they had a lead on who had used his credit card. They wanted John’s help with the investigation. 

“We think that we know where the scammers are. We actually think they’re right in Charlottetown, wondering if you can actually help us catch these guys?” the caller said. 

“Sure. How?” John said, eager to help. 

The caller told him to go to Canadian Tire, where one of the suspects for the scammer allegedly worked, and use his old credit card to buy four gift cards each worth $500. While the card had been “cancelled” by the so-called bank, the caller said it would still work for a time.

It did.  

The caller then told John to go to Sobeys and Superstore, where he spent another $4,000 on gift cards, $2,000 at each store. This time, the credit card had not allowed the purchases, but John had enough surplus in his bank account to use his debit card. 

“I should have picked up on that, but I didn’t. But I was so inclined to try to help them,” John said during the July 7 interview. 

With each purchase, he sent the numbers attached to the cards to the caller. 


Eventually, the caller told John their “security team” had figured out the scammer was working inside a bank in Charlottetown. So, he asked John to go to the bank and withdraw $8,900 from a line of credit, which they were going to track. 

At this point, John was committed to the investigation and, with a large enough line of credit to spare, he made the withdrawal. 

The final step was sending John to a bitcoin machine in Charlottetown, where the caller told him to deposit the cash in $900 installments. 

John said that was when he started to get uncomfortable. The caller had told him they would be able to track the money on their end, but what about him? 

When John asked about this, they said he could take a picture of each portion if he wanted a receipt. He proceeded with the first three installments, a total of $2,700, but then stopped. 

“I’m getting more and more skittish at this point in time,” he said. 


The bitcoin machine was located a block from the Charlottetown Police station, so John told the caller he had to get a prescription for his wife – the truth – but first went to the police. 

There was a “100 per cent chance” John was being scammed, the police told him. But they sent him to the RCMP because he lives outside the city.

John hadn’t said anything about his suspicions to the caller yet, so he got the caller on the line at the RCMP station. The RCMP officer agreed to try to trace the call, and she found it had come from New York City. 

There was nothing they could do. When he went to the bank, John heard the same. 

RCMP caution

RCMP Const. Gavin Moore says in today’s climate, people should assume every incoming call is potential fraud until proven otherwise. Asking for personal information can help verify a family member, and banks will not ask for money over the phone, he said. 

“They’re going to ask you to come into banks. They’re going to want you to show up in person to deal with any issues.” 

Prevention is key. After the fraud has been committed, there’s little RCMP can do. For victims, the first step is going to the financial institution as soon as you realize the fraud, Moore said. 

However, once the money is gone, it’s usually too late, Moore said. To stay informed, Moore recommended the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre as a resource. 

Today, John is left to wonder what else he could have done with that money, he said. 

For one thing, he could have stayed retired. 

“If you’re working, and you might have some pretty hard days at work, and you go home and you say, ‘Not one of those things would have happened if I hadn’t been so stupid.’ So, it’s like a jail sentence, until that penalty’s paid for,” he said. “I’m 77. I’ll be 78 when this is paid for.”

This article was originally sourced from www.SaltWire.com