Students beware of phony British traveler

Three female University of Calgary students are warning fellow students to watch out for a scam many people are falling for.

Thelma, last name withheld, was on a bus going downtown in late November when a man with a British accent approached her. He claimed he was stranded in Calgary because he missed his flight to Britain the night before.

The man said he needed to pay the late charge on his ticket and the airport tax to get home and, because of the time difference, the banks were closed in London.

“He said he tried to go to a youth hostel to get money and a Money Mart,” said Thelma, a fourth-year nursing student. “He said I could have his laptop for collateral.”

Thelma gave the man $80, which she was planning to use for her pet’s veterinary bill. Thelma only became suspicious when she told her friends who filled in the details without prompting. Michelle McEachern’s brother and his girlfriend were also taken by the man who used similar details last summer.

“He offered my brother a digital camera and said he was with the Bank of Hong Kong and, because of the time difference, he couldn’t access his money,” said McEachern, who added her brother gave the man a ride to the airport. “He uses the same name like Michael Collins or Collins Richard.”

Another friend of Thelma’s, fourth-year biology student Priscilla Pantigoso, was approached by the man in July but did not give him money.

“For me, I think he didn’t plan to approach me and he came up in a rented Mustang convertible,” said Pantigoso, adding the rented vehicle tipped her off that he was not honest.

The students want to warn other students as the three women know other co-workers, friends and students who have given money to the man, and to the three it seems to be too much of a coincidence he approaches university-aged women and tells the same story.

According to Thelma, the Calgary Police know of other incidents and want more people to report it.

“If more people report on the guy, the higher a priority it is for the police to investigate,” said Thelma.

Both Pantigoso and Thelma feel angry about the incident.

“I feel pissed off he took advantage of my good-naturedness,” said Thelma.

They describe him as speaking with a British accent, 5’11” to 6′ with brown hair.

The Calgary Police Service could not be reached for comment.

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