Grandchild scam: Richmond’s great-grandmother shares warning

Richmond, BC –

Gretchen Schellenberg would do anything for her 12 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

So the Richmond senior was concerned when in early February a man posing as a police officer called to say her grandson, Tyler, had been involved in an accident and drugs were found in the car.

She was told he had been arrested and would go to jail if she didn’t come up with $18,000. The caller then handed the phone to a man who Schellenberg said sounded exactly like Tyler.

“He says to me, ‘Grandma, I love you so much.’ He says, ‘I don’t want to have a criminal record,'” Schellenberg said.

She initially withdrew $5,000, which was picked up by a courier at her home. She was told not to tell anyone what was going on or it would hurt Tyler’s case.

“You anticipated the questions at the bank about why you were withdrawing the money and told them how to respond,” Schellenberg’s son Allen said.

Weeks later, she received another call from a man posing as a second police officer, demanding even more money to keep her grandson out of jail. She said she could send $4,000 but the caller said it wasn’t enough. So Schellenberg offered a set of beads that her late husband had given her 50 years earlier, estimated at $1,500. The man posing as a police officer agreed.

“We couldn’t believe anyone would be so low as to take the pearls as the icing on the cake,” Allen said.

Schellenberg packaged the beads and the $4,000 to have them sent by courier to an Ontario address.

Gretchen Schellenberg wears the beads she later sent to scammers.

The caller assured her that she would get her money and jewelry back after Tyler’s trial. But days after that should have happened, Schellenberg saw an article in her local newspaper about the grandchild scam. It explained how the scam worked, with one person posing as a relative in trouble and others posing as police officers to extort money from unsuspecting seniors.

“I watched the story and couldn’t believe it,” Schellenberg said through sobs.

“I quickly got on the phone and called Tyler and said, ‘Tyler, were you in a car accident?’ He says, “No, what are you talking about? I don’t know about that.” And I was like, ‘Tyler, I was betrayed.'”

Schellenberg’s family was outraged that the 88-year-old widow, who lives alone, had been targeted by heartless scammers.

“The amount of preparation that they went through — they actually knew the grandson’s name, first name, last name, a little bit about him,” Allen said.

“I think they were playing with their emotions to a large extent, and they know all the things that would happen and things that they would think, so they took steps to counteract their natural instinct to talk to someone “, he added.

He said the main reason scammers get away with cheating is because they successfully persuade the senior not to tell anyone.

“That’s probably the only message people need to get across. If a caller ever tells you not to speak to someone, that’s a surefire sign that you need to hang up or speak to someone immediately,” Allen said.

Schellenberg filed fraud reports with the RCMP and her bank, but she knows she’s unlikely to get her money or beads back.

“I just can’t believe it. It’s like a nightmare,” she said.

Although embarrassed at having fallen for the scam, the great-grandmother felt it was important to share her story to prevent other seniors from becoming victims.

“I want everyone to know so that this doesn’t happen to them,” Schellenberg said. “I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through. It’s terrible


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