Displaced Wheatley residents being targeted by scammers

Scams. Aug. 21, 2019. (Photo courtesy of WPS)

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is monitoring scammers targeting displaced residents in Wheatley.

Municipal officials said they recently learned that some residents have received a call asking them to meet at their home to determine eligibility for financial assistance.

Chatham-Kent police said an elderly Leamington resident went to the evacuation area in Wheatley on Wednesday at the direction of an unknown caller, who told them they were eligible to collect a $5,000 cheque.

“It’s very unfortunate when someone is trying to take advantage of folks that are already feeling vulnerable and going through a difficult time. We’re doing everything we can to support them and making sure everybody has the correct and updated information,” said retiring Chief Administrative Officer Don Shrophire.

Shropshire said the municipality emailed residents who could be targeted on Wednesday night to say this is not the way the municipality does business. The police in Chatham-Kent were also notified of the scam, according to Shropshire, but he’s not aware if any charges have been laid.

The municipality is reminding displaced residents that no municipal staff will ask any of them to meet at their home to determine funding eligibility. Municipal case managers will continue to work with residents by phone, or in person at the Village Resource Centre, according to the municipality.

If any residents have concerns regarding calls they have received, they can call 519-351-8573 Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and ask to speak with a Wheatley Crisis Case Manager.

Police are also advising everyone that if they receive a similar call or text, it is a scam and to not provide any personal or financial information to anyone, especially if they did not initiate the contact.

Meantime,the municipality is reporting that more than $400,000 in provincial funding has been distributed to 29 businesses affected by the blast on August 26, 2021 and the six gas leaks since June 2, 2021.

Shropshire said there were 38 businesses in the evacuation zone but not all are eligible for funding or have chosen not to access the cash.

The province has given the municipality $3.8 million to help displaced residents with food, clothing and housing and $2 million to help affected businesses get back on their feet.

Incoming Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Kelly also said there was a large gas leak at 15 Erie Street North in Wheatley on Sunday, followed by a minor leak. Access to properties allowing displaced residents a chance to check their properties and gather belongings has resumed after a short pause this week. Kelly said five residents will be allowed access on Thursday.

The municipality said residents will see heavy machinery on-site in early December to assist with the demolition and excavation in the evacuation area.

Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said the municipality and the Premier of Ontario, his ministers, and his senior staff meet weekly on the Wheatley file. The mayor said the premier is very dedicated to getting a timely and safe solution in Wheatley so residents can return to their homes and businesses.