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Not fooled: how a Fort Langley marriage commissioner uncovered a fake bride scam

‘This just feels stinky,’ Sherril Gilmour recalled
Grant and Sherril Gilmour posed for a picture at a wedding she officiated at. The Fort Langley marriage commissioner wasn’t fooled when a fake bride, tried to get her to cash a bad cheque. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

By one estimate, one in three Canadian seniors have been victimized by con artists.

But Fort Langley marriage commissioner Sherril Gilmour, 62, isn’t one of them, because when a fake bride tried to convince her to cash a big cheque, she didn’t bite.

Gilmour, a retired registered nurse who does about five to ten weddings a month for less than $150 each, received an email from someone who said they were a bride, living in the U.S. who wanted to book her for a wedding in Langley in March.

“I said great, so I put her on my calendar, and then, about a week later, she emailed me again and said ‘I’m going to be sending you a cheque to pay for your services, and by the way, we’re going to add the amount to the money for the photographer.”

Gilmour was told to put the cheque in her bank account, keep $200 of it, and e-transfer the rest of the money to a wedding photographer.

A few days before the wedding date, a cheque arrived for $2,650 on a U.S. account.

“At that point I went, ‘this is not right, I’m not feeling comfortable about this,’” Gilmour recalled thinking.

“That’s not the way I do things. I said [to my husband, Grant] ‘this just feels stinky.’”

When Gilmour checked with the alleged venue for the wedding and found nothing had been booked, “I emailed her back and I said, ‘there’s no wedding scheduled,’ and she said ‘it’s okay, my marriage coordinator has got everything arranged, you just need to go and cash the cheque.’”

Gilmour has since learned from her banker that if she had, it would have been a costly mistake.

Cheques can be cashed quickly when a customer, like Gilmour, is in good standing with the bank, but if the cheque later bounces, the person who cashed it loses out.

“It takes up to three weeks [to process a U.S. cheque],” Gilmour explained.

“So it could be a month before you even find out that you’re on the hook for the $2,650. Once they [con artists] get their money, they’re out of here. Then, you have no access to to them, and the bank will come back to you and say ‘well, that cheque’s like a rubber ball.’”

READ ALSO: CRA offers tips and tricks for seniors to avoid scams this tax season

When Gilmour told the supposed bride she wouldn’t be cashing the cheque and would expect to be paid, in cash on the day of the wedding rehearsal, it got nasty.

“She said ‘you’re ruining everything. I can’t believe that you’re doing this. You’re just so selfish,’ and I finally responded with ‘not my issue, not my problem’ and then I blocked her.”

Just to be sure, her husband dropped by the venue on the day the wedding rehearsal was supposed to be happening.

“There was no wedding party, and the venue had no record of bride, or wedding, or rehearsal,” he reported.

Gilmour said the provincial Department of Vital Statistics, which registers all births, marriages, deaths, and changes of name in the province, recently issued a warning about the scam to B.C. marriage commissioners.

“I would really encourage people that, if someone starts trying to do something and it feels funny, do your homework – check it out,” Gilmour advised.

READ ALSO: Fake financial advisor who defrauded seniors fined $340K

According to a 2023 Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, 31 per cent or roughly one in three Canadians 55 and older reported being victimized by frauds or scams at some point in their lifetime.

According to the the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre:

Don’t be afraid to say no or hang up on a caller.

Verify organizations you believe to be dealing with.

Don’t provide personal information over the phone.

Be wary of upfront fees.

Protect your computer by updating passwords and being cautious of email solicitations and pop-up links.

Contact your local police agency if you or a friend or family member have been a target of a suspected scam, or call Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501, or online by way of the Fraud Reporting System.

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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