ONGOING PHONE SCAMS – DON’T BE A VICTIM!
The Cornwall Police Service recognizes that it is not always easy to spot a scam and that new ones are invented on a regular basis. If you suspect that you may be a target of fraud, or if you have already sent funds, don’t be embarrassed - you’re not alone. The Cornwall Police Service, along with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, wish to provide you with some Crime Reduction tips to reduce the risk.
How can I recognize a scam?
If It sounds too good to be true
• You've won a big prize in a contest that you don't recall entering. You're offered a once-in-a-lifetime investment that offers a huge return. You're told that you can buy into a lottery ticket pool that cannot lose.
You must pay or you can't play
• “You’re a winner!” but you must agree to send money to the caller in order to pay for delivery, processing, taxes, duties or some other fee in order to receive your prize. Sometimes the caller will even send a courier to pick up your money.
You must give them your private financial information
• The caller asks for all your confidential banking and/or credit card information. Honest businesses do not require these details unless you are using that specific method of payment.
Will that be cash... or cash?
• Often criminal telemarketers ask you to send cash or a money order, rather than a cheque or credit card. Cash is untraceable and cannot be cancelled. Criminals also have difficulty in establishing themselves as merchants with legitimate credit card companies.
The caller is more excited than you are
• The criminals want to get you excited about this “opportunity” so that you won't be able to think clearly.
It's the Manager calling
• The person calling claims to be a government official, tax officer, banking official, lawyer or some other person in authority. The person calls you by your first name and asks you a lot of personal or lifestyle questions (like how often do your grown children visit you?).
The stranger calling wants to become your best friend
• Criminals love finding out if you're lonely and willing to talk. Once they know that, they'll try to convince you that they are your friend – after all, we don't normally suspect our friends of being criminals.
It's a limited opportunity and you're going to miss out
• If you are pressured to make a big purchase decision immediately, it is probably not a legitimate deal. Real businesses or charities will give you a chance to check them out or think about it.
What can I do to protect myself?
Remember, legitimate telemarketers have nothing to hide
• However, criminals will say anything to part you from your hard-earned money.
• Be cautious. You have the right to check out any caller by requesting written information, a call back number, references and time to think over the offer.
Legitimate business people will be happy to provide you with that information. After all, they want the "bad guys" out of business too. Always be careful about providing confidential personal information, especially banking or credit card details, unless you are certain the company is legitimate. If you have doubts about a caller, your best defense is to simply hang up. It's not rude – it's smart.
If you're in doubt, it's wise to ask the advice of a close friend or relative, or even your banker. Rely on people you can trust. Remember, you can stop phone fraud – just hang up!
I suspect that a relative or friend is being targeted by unscrupulous telemarketers. What can I do?
Watch for any of these warning signs:
• a marked increase in the amount of mail with too-good-to-be-true offers
• frequent calls offering get-rich-quick schemes or valuable awards, or numerous calls for donations to unfamiliar charities
• a sudden inability to pay normal bills
• requests for loans or cash
• banking records that show cheques or withdrawals made to unfamiliar companies
• secretive behaviour regarding phone calls.
If you suspect that someone you know has fallen prey to a deceptive telemarketer, don't criticize them for being naïve. Encourage that person to share their concerns with you about unsolicited calls or any new business or charitable dealings. Assure them that it is not rude to hang up on suspicious calls. Keep in mind that criminal telemarketers are relentless in hounding people – some victims report receiving 5 or more calls a day, wearing down their resistance. Once a person has succumbed to this ruthless fraud, their name and number will likely go on a "sucker list", which is sold from one criminal to another.
Some common scams to watch out for:
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Scam
In the CRA Scam, the caller or sender poses as an agent from the Canada Revenue Agency in an attempt to gather personal information, or intimidate a victim into providing financial payment.
Phone scammers posing as CRA agents will claim one of several possibilities:
- that you owe money to the CRA and will be arrested if you do not pay immediately
- that a lawsuit has been filed against you by the CRA
- that a warrant of arrest has already been issued under your name
- that you will be deported if you do not pay the money demanded
- other similar threats to get you to share your personal tax information and/or pay money
What should I do if I receive a call like this?
- Hang up immediately if there's anything suspicious or unprofessional about the call – the CRA will never threaten you with immediate arrest, use abusive language or send police.
- The CRA will never request a payment by Interac e-transfer, online currency such as bitcoin, pre-paid credit cards or pre-paid gift cards such as iTunes, Home Depot, etc.
- The CRA's accepted methods of payment are online banking, debit card, credit card or PayPal through a third-party service provider and pre-authorized debit.
- Do not click on any link in an e-mail pretending to be from the CRA – the CRA will never ask you to click on any link to get a refund or to collect personal or financial information.
- The only time the CRA will send an e-mail that contains links is if a taxpayer calls the CRA to ask for a form or a link to specific information. A CRA agent will send the information to the taxpayer's email during the telephone call – this is the ONLY exception to the above rule!
- The CRA never sends out text messages. Any text message from the CRA is a scam.
- Young people are often the most at risk to this scam, particularly when filing their taxes for the first time. Make sure your family and friends are educated on what the CRA will and will not ask for during tax season.
Emergency or "Grandparent" Scam
Though the “Emergency Scam” (or sometimes referred to as the “Grandparent Scam”) has been around for years, there has been a marked increase in the number of complaints in the last year. In the typical scenario, a grandparent receives a phone call from a con-artist claiming to be one of his or her grandchildren. The caller goes on to say that they are in some kind of trouble and need money immediately. Typically they claim being in a car accident, trouble returning from a foreign country or they need bail money. Victims do not verify the story until after the money has been sent as the caller specifically asks that they do not want other relatives to know what has happened. " Wanting to help their grandchild, the victim sends money by a money transfer company such as Money Gram or Western Union. Variations on the scam exist, such as an old neighbour, a friend of the family etc. but predominantly the emergency scam is directed toward the grandparents.
Any false, deceptive or misleading promotion of services or solicitation for services. These scams typically involve third parties that make offers for telecommunications, internet, finance, medical and energy services. This category of scams may also include, but is not limited to, offers such as extended warranties, insurance and sales services.
One of the most common scams is the "prize pitch". Consumers are told they have been specially selected to win a prize, or have been awarded one of three or two of five prizes. These prizes usually include cash or a vehicle. You must purchase a product and pay in advance to receive your prize. These products may include "coin collections", personalized pen sets, etc. The products are generally cheap or overpriced, but may sound valuable over the phone. Remember, in a legitimate contest you do not have to purchase a product to qualify for a prize.
You may also encounter the "sweepstakes scam". After entering a fake sweepstakes contest in the mail, you will receive a call within two to four weeks from a fraudulent telemarketer. This person will usually identify themselves as a lawyer, judge, customs agent or other official. They will represent themselves as an agent for a particular company. You will be told that you have won a large cash award, but money must be sent up front for taxes, etc.
I think this is a fraud/scam - do I need to send it to police?
If you have received a fraudulent phone call/email/communication and have not provided any personal information or lost any money, please contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 to file a report for statistical purposes.
I have been a victim of fraud, now what?
If you lost money as a result of the a fraud/scam, you may file a report with the Cornwall Police Service by calling 613-933-5000 ext. 2418.
To prevent further loss of monetary funds, please ensure you take the following steps:
• Cancel your cards and notify your bank of the fraudulent activity.
• Ignore any further communications from the subject and inform them that you have called the police if communication persists.
• Keep all documentation until it is requested by an Investigator.
For more information on these types of frauds, please visit the website for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.