Thursday, January 7, 2010

Canadian Telemarketing Fraud Alert

"ICE returns money to elderly couple targeted by Canadian con artists

Agency warns public to be wary of callers soliciting money"

"Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tuesday returned nearly $7,000 to an elderly Pauoa Valley couple victimized by Canadian con artists who told the pair the money was needed to aid a female relative who had run afoul of the law in Canada.

Tuesday morning, ICE agents handed the octogenarians 10 money orders totaling $6,995. Four months ago, the couple sent the money orders to Canada after being contacted by an individual claiming to be an attorney for a distant family member purportedly arrested in that country on drunken-driving charges. In a series of phone calls, the couple also spoke with a woman they believed was a relative who said the funds were to pay her bail and related legal costs. She further claimed the attorney was holding her hostage until he received payment. The woman's voice and pleas were sufficiently convincing that the couple forwarded the money orders as instructed. It was only later after speaking with the actual family member, who resides in Utah and advised she had never visited Canada, that they realized they had been scammed.

The money returned to the couple was recovered as part of Project COLT (Center of Operations Linked to Telemarketing), a bi-national effort involving numerous agencies, including: ICE, the FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Quebec Provincial Police.

Alert personnel from the Canadian Postal Service and CBP, who routinely inspect suspicious parcels believed to contain fraudulent telemarketing funds, intercepted the money orders and coordinated with ICE to arrange their return. The case is under ongoing investigation by Canadian authorities.

ICE agents say that while the ploy used on the local couple is somewhat unusual because it was highly personal, it is quite common for Canada-based telephone fraudsters to target senior citizens. One of the most frequent scams involves telemarketers posing as 'customs agents' who tell victims they have won the Canadian lottery but must send a 'processing fee' or "customs duty' before they can collect their winnings...

Before sending any money to telemarketers, ICE urges the public to contact PHONEBUSTERS, Canada's Anti-fraud Call Center at 1-888-495-8501. The staff at PHONEBUSTERS work closely with Project COLT investigators and other law enforcement agencies. More information on the initiative is also available through the PHONEBUSTERS website at www.phonebusters.com."

Read the full story: http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/1001/100106honolulu.htm

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