Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 03/20/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Sometimes -- even in these all-a-Twitter times -- news still travels slowly.
I was walking the dog around the block Tuesday night when a neighbour's car approached slowly and stopped. It was Hans Hasenack, the former honorary Dutch counsel, and he had a couple of stories to share.
The first one I'd already heard via his wife, Sandra. Their car had been broken into when they were in Florida this winter and their passports were stolen.
But it was the second story, the one I hadn't heard, that he really wanted to share.
His encounter with the notorious and insidious Grandparent Scam, or, in this case strictly speaking, a Relative Scam.
-- -- --
The first call arrived at 1:45 p.m. on a Monday early last month.
The somewhat muffled and unfamiliar voice announced who was calling.
"I can't remember if he said his name is John, or 'This is your son.' And then I said, 'John?' "
And Hans, confused and in shock, was hooked.
"John" went on to explain he didn't sound like himself because he had a broken nose that was bandaged up from being in a car accident in a parking lot -- which is why he was calling on a private number from the courthouse "bullpen."
He was there waiting to be processed after police arrested him for impaired driving.
"But John never drinks," Hans told me. He reminded "John" of that.
"Well," he responded, in his broken-nose voice. "I had a couple of glasses of champagne."
After all, he'd been to a wedding Sunday night, and it was as he was leaving that the car he was driving rear-ended a car bearing Quebec plates.
"John" said police arrived and administered a breathalyzer, which he failed by a very small margin.
"He said he couldn't talk, but his lawyer, Adam White, would call me and provide more details."
There was one other request: Don't phone anyone in the family and tell them what had happened.
Fifteen minutes had passed since the first call, but the shock hadn't subsided for Hans, when the home phone rang again.
It was the "lawyer."
He told Hans he might be able to dissuade police from laying formal charges because "John" was barely over the limit.
But that would mean his insurance to cover damages to the vehicles would be void and "John" would have to pay for the damage to the other car.
Of course, "John" was in no position to do that now, and he was at risk of spending the next two days in jail. So the only way to prevent that would be to come up with a cash settlement for the driver of the other car.
"He said, 'Meet me either at a Safeway or a Western Union,' to get the payment arranged," Hans recalled. "I couldn't figure out the Safeway part.
"I said, 'I can bring the cash. How much did they want?' "
The answer: $2,000.
After the fact, none of that makes any sense. But Hans was dealing with someone he thought was his son, and his son needed help. Hans told the "lawyer" he wanted to see his son in person so he could take care of any other needs. The "lawyer" told Hans to page him at the courthouse at 3 p.m. But 15 minutes after the second call, Hans received a third.
It was "John" again.
He told Hans police wouldn't let him see him and his dad would have to deal with his lawyer about being released from custody.
By then, Hans was trying to make sense of everything he'd heard: Western Union and Safeway? Plus, "John's" voice and manner of speaking seemed strange.
That's when Hans decided to test his gut feeling that none of it made sense.
"What's your son's name?" Hans asked "John."
John only has daughters.
There was silence on the other end of the phone -- then it went dead.
So where was the real John? By 3:15 p.m., an hour and a half after the scam began, it was over, and Hans was calling the school where John teaches. John was in class.
"But they had me convinced," Hans told me. "Right up to that last moment."
He thinks it was the reference to Western Union, and wiring money from there, that may have alerted him. It's the typical way the Grandparent Scam works. Did the theft of his passport and other valuables in Florida have anything to do with his being targeted?
Hans can only wonder.
-- -- --
RCMP say the Grandparent Scam is among the top three frauds reported by seniors in Canada.
In Winnipeg, police say since Sept. 23, 14 Grandparent Scams and 16 Relative Scams have been reported. But police believe actual numbers are probably higher because people are ashamed or scared to report they've been scammed.
A week after Hans foiled the first scam, he received another call.
This time it was his "nephew" calling to say he had been in an accident.
"They tried to do it again," Hans said. "They hadn't crossed me off the list."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 20, 2014 B1
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Make a batch of presents with yummy home baking
'I don't want to die a drunk'
CentreVenture boss got a lot done
The measure of the man
Spinning truth in true-crime drama
It isn't freedom without access to markets
Hole for the holidays
The strange, sad and silly year that was
Fix hole in marriage before someone else crawls through
Many happy returns
Career tips for new mayors... and others
An oasis of sparkling wines
Happy Christmas — war is over
A time to reflect on all our blessings
NDP in tough spot for 2015 election
Ensure emotions can handle play date
Two stand out against all other candidates
A doggone happy reunification
Exit a body blow for Selinger
Talkin' 'bout a revolutionary
Earl Grey squares
#Decolonize2014: Boundary-defying exhibitions by indigenous artists help define art in Winnipeg this year
A mommy not required to stick up for husband
Persian, Somali food in short supply in Winnipeg, so this duo is a great discovery
City, Shindico still at odds over expropriation
Time to deal yourself in, Chevy
Return to Dog River so much fun you could spit
Generosity doesn't solve poverty
Hush-hush bar fight leads to fidelity concerns
A pooch's present
Time to deal yourself in, Chevy
Daughter makes her mom proud
Dad feeling dumb after being caught smoking pot
Tolkiening it to the next level
Brace for return of Bellefeuille, Etcheverry
Scandinavian-style spa steaming up Fort Garry
Eggnog Sandwich Cookies
The buddy system can be complicated thing
First fashion boutique on Waterfront
Chronic condition and obesity inspire local woman to join reality show about bodybuilders