Spot the scams
Sometimes, like the so-called Nigerian scam, the pitch is obvious and easy to spot. Sometimes though, mail, phone and e-mail fraud is not so simple.
That’s a lesson Oceanside RCMP Corporal Richard van de Pol wants area residents to take to heart during March, which he said is Fraud Awareness Month.
“People have to be aware with anything to do with money,” van de Pol said. “If you are not 100 per cent clear on what’s going on, don’t make any decisions until you have all the information.”
According to the Financial Consumer Protection Agency of Canada, one of the most common forms of fraud going around these days is called phishing, where victim receives a fraudulent e-mail that appears to come from a legitimate organization, such as a Government of Canada department or the victim’s own financial institution.
The email instructs the consumer to visit a false website, download fraudulent content or provide confidential personal information.
Armed with information such as date of birth, passwords, a Social Insurance Number, credit card or bank account information, criminals can gain access to credit card accounts or get new credit cards, and make purchases that the victim might be held responsible for.
One scam, van de Pol said, involves notification of the victim that they are going to inherit a significant amount of money — with the proviso that certain information or fees need to be send in order to claim it.
“If people are getting letters from people that suggest they going to inherit a bunch of money, you have to realize, this is not the way business is done,” he said. “People aren’t notified by letter.”
He said one scam going on right now targets individuals who have items for sale, typically real estate or rental properties.
“Someone over the phone offers to buy something — sight unseen — on Craigslist or whatever,” he said. “They send a cheque and then, after the recipient gets it, they phone back saying they can’t afford the item or they no longer want it for some other reason. They ask for their money to be reimbursed.”
However, anyone foolish enough to do so soon finds out the cheque is made of rubber and they’re out of pocket for the cash they sent to the supposed purchaser.
“Typically it’s real estate this can happen to,” van de Pol said. “They’ll say they’re an investor who is interested in property and here’s my deposit and then no, I don’t want it.”
In order to avoid falling prey to online, phone or mail scams, the FCAC suggests a number of steps:
• Never give out personal information over the Internet unless you trust the site you are on.
• Open a single browser window at a time when using online banking, and don’t forget to clear your computer’s memory cache when done.
• Never allow your computer to remember your passwords; change passwords regularly and do not share them with anyone.
• Make sure your computer’s antivirus protection is up to date and use the latest version of your Web browser.
• Check to make sure that the Internet address provided in the e-mails you receive is related to the subject of the e-mails.
• Access websites using the address bar. Never click on links provided in emails.