Warning to Canadian Seniors Targeted by International Drug Smuggling Scams
What to do
If you are a victim or believe you have been targeted by one of these criminal organizations, report the incident to your local law enforcement and contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll free at 1-888-495-8501 or through the Fraud Reporting System (FRS).
You can also contact the Canada Border Watch Tip line:
Monday to Friday 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM EST
Border Watch Line
For more information on how to protect yourself, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Drug trafficking organizations are targeting Canadian seniors through the use of various financial scams to act as unwitting drug couriers.
These foreign drug trafficking organizations prey on seniors with promises of romance, large sums of money or business opportunities with travel and expenses paid. It’s a scam. They use phishing email messages, websites, mail and phone calls to trick unsuspecting senior citizens into unwittingly transporting illegal narcotics.
Awareness is your best defence. Be suspicious of any unsolicited emails, letters or phone calls for travel or money-making opportunities that sound too good to be true. If you are unfamiliar with the person or group contacting you or if you have any doubts, you should carefully research available information before conducting a transaction, agreeing to travel or giving any personal details such as passport information.
The scam operates as follow:
- The criminal organizations begin by contacting seniors, usually online, and offering various financial opportunities, or romantic relationships.
- They invest a lot of time developing close relationships with them through frequent communication.
- Some known scams include International Monetary Fund scams, United Nations scams, inheritance scams, foreign beneficiary scams, etc.
- At some point, the organization will require the victim to travel to destinations such as Africa, South America or Asia in order to receive the promised financial rewards.
- During these trips, the victims may be asked to take seemingly harmless items along with them for contacts in another country that they are being directed to travel to or back home to Canada.
- Upon arrival and inspection, these items are found to contain drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, resulting in detention and arrest by local authorities.
- The drugs are often concealed, for example, in the false sides of luggage, clothing, chocolates, candies, canned goods, boxes of tea, picture frames and toiletries.
- Even when the victims are warned by law enforcement, family or friends they tend to remain loyal to the organization and may follow through with travel in return for promises of financial gain.
- Many of the elderly victims are travelling to, or transiting through, countries that have severe penalties for drug smuggling (life in prison or even death) whether the individual is aware they are carrying narcotics or not.
- If you are found transporting narcotics you may face arrest, criminal charges and a conviction for drug smuggling. The fact that you didn’t know will not necessarily exonerate you of responsibility for what you possess in your luggage.
- Don’t be a victim of these drug tracking organizations.
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