Woman residing in Toronto arrested in international phone scam targeting seniors

A woman living in Toronto is facing charges in connection with an alleged international telephone scam targeting seniors.

An investigation began in Dec. 2021 after the RCMP Greater Toronto Transnational Serious and Organized Crime (TSOC) unit received information from the RCMP in Prince Edward Island.

The RCMP said the probe began when an elderly Canadian was scammed out of more than $20,000.

“The scammers were posing as representatives from ‘Reader’s Digest’ or ‘Publishers Clearing House’ telling ‘winners’ they have won a car or a cash prize, but would have to pay a small fee in order to cover taxes, legal fees or delivery fees,” the RCMP said in a news release on Wednesday.

The RCMP said it also investigated the use of a “money mule,” who helps move a victim’s funds to a criminal organization and assists in the money laundering process.

In this particular case, the RCMP said, the money was sent from Canada to an account in Jamaica.

On Wednesday, the RCMP announced a non-resident currently residing in Toronto was arrested in the case.

Phylecca Smith, 31, is facing three charges, including fraud over $5,000, and possession and laundering of the proceeds of crime.

“Economic and financial crimes threaten the Canadian economy, thereby, taking funds away from hard-working Canadians,” Supt. Ann Koenig, district commander, Greater Toronto Area – TSOC, said in a statement. “The RCMP is committed to protecting Canada’s financial integrity, especially when citizens are targeted by criminal organizations.”

A bail hearing for Smith was held on July 27 in Toronto.

Smith was released by the courts but remains in custody on an immigration hold by the Canada Border Services Agency due to her non-status in Canada, the RCMP says.

Police did not say where Smith’s primary residence is.

The RCMP issued a reminder urging people to report fraudulent activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by calling 1-888-495-8501.