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How fraudsters play their games

Frauds are increasingly common among all Canadians, and seniors are especially vulnerable.
James Derksen
James Derksen says his parents were duped by fraudsters. Photo submitted.

"Hello. Who am I speaking with?" A polite, professional sounding voice said.

“This is John Cooper. Can I ask who you are?”

“I’m a Lawyer with Robinson and Robinson. Your grandchild was in an accident and is now at the police station in Hamilton-Wentworth for drinking and driving.”

“My granddaughter Stacey? Stacy Brown? She’s in San Francisco on a student exchange!”

"She came here for a visit, and she's in some serious trouble."

"What can I do?" Cooper replied.

This is a real conversation between John Cooper and a fraudster. By using fear tactics, the fraudster was able to obtain Cooper's name and the name of his granddaughter, with just a few questions.

But what happens when the person who defrauds you is a member of your community? Ron Fast was well-known and had a good track record. He started his career leasing construction equipment, and then moved on to finance restaurants. Fast preyed on people who couldn’t get a loan anywhere else, charging outlandish interest.

In the end, Fast defrauded 250 investors of $16.7 million. In 2014, Fast got seven years in prison and though the judge ordered restitution, victims haven't seen a cent. James Derksen’s parents were victims. His father was a retired missionary in his 70s and had heard of the businessman who got excellent returns for investors. The hardship Derksen's mother endured was immense, he said, leaving her with no money in her 80s after his father passed away. 

Now a senior himself, Derksen said "If Fast had approached me, I'd want to know more about his company."

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, there have been over 46,000 reports of fraud in Canada in just the first half of 2021, totalling $130 million. Over 20,000 Canadians have reported being victims of COVID-19-related fraud this year too.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and Edmonton Police Service offer assistance to victims of fraud, and provide tips on their websites to remind consumers how to protect themselves against it. If you suspect a fraudster is calling, hang up. Look up the organization's number, and call them yourself, experts remind. And, importantly, never be ashamed to report the fraud. Fraudsters count on people (usually seniors) being too embarrassed to ever file a report with police.

To learn more about fraud and how to protect yourself, visit edmontonpolice.ca, calgarypolice.ca, rcmp-grc.gc.ca or antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca