This is another win against phone scammers targeting elderly folks, impersonating as their grandson and asking for money to “bail” them out of trouble. A week ago, a Walmart employee also did the same thing to help prevent a scam from succeeding.

A good point was noted by the real grandson, that these scammers are able to track and dig out information about the relationship. One possible area where scammers could have dug the information is Facebook. There has been quite a number of scams lately, about facebook being hacked and used to upload sickening videos.

Back to this case… Buy from Safeway! Buy from Safeway!


The scam works like this: The ‘grandchild’ says he’s in jail and needs bail money immediately. In at least one instance a second person, pretending to be a lawyer by the name of Michael Jameson, is put on the phone, confirms the need and tells them how to wire money.

An 88-year-old Comox woman was their latest target.

The woman, who asked not to be named, was home alone on Monday night when she got a call.

“I asked who’s this?” she said. “He said it’s David, I’m in Toronto Gram.” The man then went onto explain that he was the best man at a friend’s wedding and got caught drinking and driving in a police roadblock after the wedding. He had been put in jail and needed bail.

“It sounded just like David,” said the woman, who is usually very skeptical. “He went on and on. Then he put on the lawyer who talked and talked. He sounded quite concerned and I was really taken in.” The detailed claim included an urgent plea to act soon so that his job wouldn’t be affected.

Eventually, she vowed to help her grandson anyway she could and was told to pay $4687.33 the next morning.

The ‘lawyer’ even got his secretary to look up the nearest Western Union address in Courtenay where she could wire the money.

When she got there, Safeway representative Lisa Tomko refused to process the claim immediately.

Tomko called her own lawyer and asked if he could research Michael Jameson’s name in Toronto. She also called Western Union’s head office in a bid to convince the senior it was a scam.

“I could tell she was getting a little irritated with me because she needed to get the money to her grandson.” Eventually she persuaded the senior to go home, get the lawyer’s number and call family members to see if her grandson was in fact in Toronto.

To her, warning bells included the large amount of money being wired, the fact the lawyer didn’t ask for the money deposited to a trust fund and that he didn’t leave a return phone number.

When the senior got home – the ‘lawyer’ called again asking for the transfer number.

She told him the case was being investigated and the caller hung up immediately.

Meanwhile, the entire transaction raises privacy issues for her real grandson David Barner, who lived in Toronto until about two years ago.

“The stranger knew such details of our lives,” said Barner. “It makes me think twice about how much information I put on the Internet. I do use social networking and my privacy settings for Facebook are what they should be but there’s still a lot of information out there.” The family is extremely grateful to Tomko for preventing a significant loss, said Barner.