Educating the public in fraud prevention
Upper Ottawa Valley OPP Constable Shawn Peever, along with Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre's Keith Ward, delivered a special presentation on fraud prevention to an audience of more than 70 at the Pembroke Seniors Drop-In Centre on March 2.
Pembroke and area residents have learned how to recognize, reject and report fraud.
On March 2, marking Fraud Prevention Month, the Pembroke Seniors Drop-In Centre teamed up with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) and the Upper Ottawa Valley detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) to host a special presentation detailing fraud prevention – welcoming more than 70 attendees.
CAFC intelligence researcher Keith Ward, along with Upper Ottawa Valley OPP Constable Shawn Peever, conducted the presentation in which they discussed mass marketing fraud (MMF), identity theft and various types of scams – and how to avoid them.
According to Ward, there’s more than 30 MMF schemes that include anti-virus scams, dead air calls, lottery emails, phone number spoofing, prize pitches, puppy scams, romance scams, pyramid schemes, service scams and many others.
In 2017, the 10 most common types of scams were extortion, phishing, service, personal info, merchandise, sale of merchandise, counterfeit merchandise, prize, romance and job scams.
“Last year alone we had 110 million cases just in Canada and that was based on a quarter of a million calls and 71,000 online reports,” said Ward. “But that’s only the tip of the iceberg as it’s estimated that less than five per cent of all MMF is reported to the CAFC.”
The highest dollar losses were created by wire fraud with more than $20 million in loss, followed by romance scams that caused more than $19 million in loss.
The CAFC reports that there were 5,527 Canadians who were victims of mass marketing fraud, with a loss of over 27.2 million dollars, in 2016. The majority of victims were targeted by email, internet and by telephone — others were approached in-person, by mail and other forms of mass-media communications.
As we start rolling into tax season, new Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scams are becoming more frequent.
Ward explained that in most cases, people are told a criminal investigation has been launched, or criminal charges have been filed against them, and they must call a specific number immediately.
“These are scams and you should never respond to these phone calls or emails or click on any of the links provided,” said Ward.
For those who are looking for love online, CAFC cautions everyone to beware ‘romance scams’. In 2016, romance scams cost 203 Canadians over $8.8 million in losses. Victims of the romance scam are notoriously lathered with compliments and declarations of love by the person(s) they meet online. Once the victim is fooled by the romantic scheme, the victim will either be asked to send money to assist with an unexpected tragedy or the scammer will wait for them to suggest it. Predators of the romance scam typically live outside our country and the victim never actually meets them in person.
“Romance scams are strongly targeted towards seniors who could be vulnerable, recently have lost a spouse or new to the dating world,” said Peever. “So basically, groups of organized crime people will get together and make communication with the seniors and start a relationship online. The scammers send flowers, gifts and these things go on not just for a few weeks but they could go on for months or years. Once the trust is built and the scammer has wooed the victim with gifts and conversation, the scammer will say that there’s been some terrible accident or tragedy with their family and that they ‘would love to come visit you but need money for travel expenses’; so they’re looking for excuses in order to get money out of you.”
In 2016, the CAFC had 1,267 complaints from 831 victims who sustained more than 21 million in losses.
In order to avoid becoming a victim of a romance scam, Peever stressed that the golden rule to follow is ‘if you cannot meet the person in a safe location – move on’.
“How do you know who you’re talking to on the internet? you don’t,” said Peever.
To recognize a scam, Peever offered the advise that “if it sounds too good to be true, it really is”, don’t trust anyone that asks for your private financial information and if it sounds fishy you should ignore the email or hang up the phone.