Alert bank teller saves Saanich couple from ‘grandparent scam’

An elderly German couple living in Saanich was woken up early Saturday morning by a panicked female caller, in need of $40,000.

An elderly German couple living in Saanich was woken up early Saturday morning by a panicked female caller, in need of $40,000. She spoke to them in German, and claimed to be their niece, living in Deutschland.

“Olga, is that you?”

“Yes, it’s me, Olga.”

She said she needed the large sum of money to help pay the bills for her newly acquired furniture store. She also told the couple not to tell other family members about her situation, out of concern that she would be shunned and shamed.

The victims, convinced their niece was really in trouble, went to the Coast Capital Savings credit union on Shelbourne Street to withdraw money.

But the unusually large request caught the attention of the bank teller. When she questioned the elderly man about what the money was to be used for, he explained the situation, which she immediately recognized as a fraud.

Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen said fraudsters perpetrate the “grandparent scam” by tricking their elderly victim into suggesting the name of the family member then taking on that identity.

Often a second scammer will get on the phone, claiming to be a lawyer or authority figure, to create a greater air of legitimacy and urgency.

kslavin@saanichnews.com