2 min

B&Bs target of scam

Caller tries to con gay businesses

Gay-owned bed and breakfast establishments in the Ottawa area have once again become targets of a telephone scam.

The scam involves an unidentified caller who claims to be a fellow businessman. He implies that he is a person known to the victim and claims that he and his partner have been injured in Los Angeles. A money transfer of $975 by Western Union to cover hospital costs is requested.

Meirion Jones and his partner, owners of Baxter’s B&B, received four telephone calls from the individual between Aug 28 and Sep 2.

“At first his story sounded plausible,” says Jones.

“It took me a little while to realize that he wasn’t answering any of the questions I asked him directly.” When the caller mentioned that he was in the same business, Jones asked if he was Joey Shulman, owner of Wildewood Guest House. The caller quickly identified himself as Joey. Jones became suspicious. He asked the man to call back and contacted Wildewood immediately. Shulman was fine.

When the man called again, Jones said him that he was onto his scam.

Baxter’s was contacted again on Sep 1 and 2. In each case the caller seemed not to realize he had called before. In frustration, Jones contacted the police.

Oddly, Wildewood received a similar call.

“It was a man who wouldn’t say who he was, posing as a homosexual and, I might add, not doing a very good job of it,” says Shulman. The unidentified caller’s story was identical. Having been contacted by Jones, Shulman was aware of the scam. Though bemused by the scammer’s evident bumbling, Shulman remains unnerved.

“It’s scary because this person is obviously targeting gay B&Bs,” he says.

Shulman copied down the number from his call display. Calling back he reached an automated answering system that says, “You are returning a call to a prepaid calling system and the party that called you cannot be reached at this number.”

He also contacted several nearby B&Bs to reassure himself that Wildewood and Baxter’s had been the only targets in his area (three hours southwest of Ottawa).

The scam is similar to one reported in the May 22 issue of Capital Xtra. George Hartsgrove, owner of the Inn on Somerset, was a victim of that scam and also received suspicious telephone calls from an unidentified caller on Sep 1. The caller seemed to be looking for information about Hartsgrove.

“Because of the previous scam where they had called and tried to get as much information as possible and then had phoned other people and said, ‘I’m phoning for George, he’s in the hospital,’ I was very suspicious,” he says.

Hartsgrove didn’t provide any information. He hasn’t contacted the police in either case because he feels that the callers would be too difficult to identify.