All Kinds of Fraud

Apr 7, 2016

Every time you turn around it seems there is a new way that consumers are being scammed out of their hard earned money.   From identity theft to internet scams, swindlers are tricking people of every age, income or ethnicity.  They fool us all with their profession marketing materials, believable telephone scripts and ability to impersonate legitimate businesses.

Identity theft is perhaps one of the fastest growing serious crimes.  Always guard your personal information, your computer and its contents.    The Canadian Consumer Handbook offers some great tips on preventing identity theft:

  • Ask why.  If you don’t know why someone is asking for your information, ask why they want it.  Go to www.priv.gc.ca for more information on what companies are allowed to ask for.
  • Guard your PIN.  Always shield the PIN pad when you are using an electronic method of payment or banking.  Never share your password with family or friends.  If you think someone knows your PIN, change it.
  • Carry only what you need.  Leave important identity cards, such as your Social Insurance Number, at home and only carry payment cards you need.
  • Don’t make it easy for thieves.  Choose a PIN or password that does not include your name, telephone number, date of birth, address or Social Insurance Number.
  • Protect your personal information.  Keep your birth certificate, SIN card and passport in a secure place.
  • Be careful with personal information you no longer need.  Shred or destroy sensitive information before throwing it out.  This includes expired and unused credit and debit cards.

They also offer valuable information on computer security:

  • Choose a password consisting of a combination of letters, numbers and symbols
  • Make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date and you have a firewall in place
  • Don’t send financial or other confidential information using email or texts
  • If you are buying something or banking on-line, make sure the web page is secure by checking to see if the web address begins with https:// (the “s” indicates the site is secure).  You will also be able to see a small icon, like a lock or a key, in the browser window.  The lock should be in a locked position, the key should be unbroken.
  • Never follow a link in an email to start an online transaction with financial services.  Always go directly to the organizations website.
  • When disposing of a computer, delete your personal information from the hard drive or destroy the drive.

Be careful with Social Networking:

  • Be careful what you post on your status updates as thieves can use your information on your current whereabouts and posted travel plans to expose your home to criminals who will take advantage of your absences.
  • Think about who is viewing your updates.  If you aren’t comfortable with someone, remove them.
  • Clean up your profile periodically.
  • Choose the highest and most restrictive security settings.
  • Don’t provide personal information such as your birthday, full name, phone number, Social Insurance Number or address.
  • Disable your cell phone or camera’s ability to geotag so that you are not sharing your location with thieves.

If you are the victim of identity theft, report it! 

  • Call your financial institutions – have them cancel your cards and re-issue new ones to minimize your liability for any losses.
  • Contact your local police.  Include the police file number on all correspondence relating to the theft.
  • Contact the credit reporting agencies to request a copy of your credit report and discuss with them whether or not to have a fraud alert placed on your file. **Trans Union Canada www.transunion.ca or *** Equifax Canada www.equifax.ca
  • Replace your ID cards such as health, driver’s license or SIN by calling 1 800 O-Canada to be redirected to the appropriate organization
  • If your mail is missing, contact Canada Post at www.canadapost.ca (1-800-267-1177)
  • Contact each organization that provided the thieves with unauthorized credit, money, information, goods or services in your name, and ask them to investigate the occurrence as well as cancel and close all fraudulent or affected cards or accounts.  You will want to find out what information they need to begin an investigation, have they already begun a criminal investigation?  If so, what is their police report number?  What do you need to do to have your losses reimbursed?
  • Be sure to report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) as they gather information in order to assist other victims.  www.antifraudcentre.ca
  • Record the steps you have taken to report the fraud.  (Company, phone number, date contacted, contact person and comments on the communication)

Other types of fraud:

  • Cheque /Refund fraud – someone sends you a cheque and asks you to deposit it into your account and then send them back a small portion, saying you can keep the balance, usually in relation to getting a job, being a secret shopper or to test how a bank handles your transaction.  The cheque or money order will later be found to be fraudulent and the bank will debit your account.
  • Canada Revenue scam – phone calls made stating there are outstanding amounts of money owing, often with threats of arrest or deportation.  The CRA does not telephone or email people to advise them of money owing.
  • Gift card or pre-paid credit card scams – cards are offered for less than face value.  If it sounds to be true, it probably is.  At the very least they could be stolen.
  • Residential rental scams – arrangements made through email or by phone with payment made by wire transfer.  Some scammers gain access to the property so they can show it to you, either by renting it themselves or for a weekend through rental companies.  Confirm the owner’s name with the property manager or through land title records, coupled with identification of the person you are dealing with.
  • Grandparent scams – are common scams that target seniors.  These scams usually involve a phone call from someone who pretends to be your grandchild.  The scammer may already know what your grandchild calls you (eg: Nona or Papa), and they claim to be in trouble and ask for your help.  They may also try to convince you that your grandchild was in a car accident or has been arrested.  They will ask you to wire money right away.
  • Advance payment schemes – requests asking you to pay shopping or administration fees or taxes in advance to secure a loan or job, or to receive lottery winnings, is fraudulent.
  • Requests for money or personal information- reputable banks and businesses do not contact clients by phone or email for money or personal information by phone or email.
  • Online event ticket sales – buying tickets online from strangers and finding out they are fake when you show up at an event – don’t buy if you can’t determine they aren’t genuine.
  • Wire transfer fraud – these can include romance scams, where you meet someone online and they ask for money for their family or to get out of a foreign country, etc.
  • Blessing scam – people are approached by strangers, telling them of bad luck or ill health affecting them or their loved ones unless the stranger blesses their money and jewelry.  The jewelry and/or money is then placed in a bag and they are told not to open it for a few weeks, at which point they discover it is full of worthless items.  (Elderly Chinese women are often targeted).