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New phone scam mimics family members' identities

Last Updated Nov 16, 2017 at 8:14 pm EDT

Phone scammers are getting more aggressive in the GTA adding a twist to the Canada Revenue Agency scam.

According to one woman, they’re using the identities of family members to lure unsuspecting victims into shelling out thousands of dollars.

One Hamilton-area woman, whose identity Citynews agreed to keep anonymous, says she was scammed out of $10,000 when a caller pressured her to deposit money into a bitcoin machine or her husband’s life would be in danger. The woman says that while she knew about previous scams that existed, she was thrown off since the call came from her husband’s cellphone number.

“They called me from his phone and that’s where I fell for it,” she told Citynews. “Obviously, I’m totally shattered at that point because they said they’re interrogating him. I’m giving money willingly to save my family member just like any other person would do for their family.”

Police in Hamilton are already investigating similar fraud claims involving bitcoin machines and warn people to be vigilant. Still, they say many fall for the scam, something others may not understand.

But psychologist Steve Joordens with the University of Toronto Scarborough tells Citynews scammers have gotten smarter and prey on victims’ emotions to keep us from making rational decisions.

“One way to think of it is this short term survival system makes us stupid,” said Joordens.  “It takes away that high-level intellectual part, it does make you intellectually impaired.”

Joordens says it’s hard to prepare for scams like this and says the best way to avoid being scammed in such a way is to try and walk away from the situation: try to break the psychological hold by asking to call the person back and taking a breather.  If the person on the phone is hesitant to hang up, Joordens says this should raise a red flag.