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Online and phone scams plague Parksville Qualicum Beach residents

RCMP: People of all age demographics becoming victims of ruses
(Stock photo)

Oceanside RCMP receive approximately two to three reports of online or phone scams every week.

That figure is likely an under-reporting of the actual number of scams occurring, according to Sgt. Shane Worth, as people may deal with the scam directly with their financial institution or other involved company, they may report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre – or they may not report it at all.

Recently a resident reported being scammed of $23,500 responding to a cryptocurrency online company on March 5. The week before, another resident reported being scammed out of $55,000 after responding to a social media posting to invest in AI with cryptocurrency.

All age demographics are becoming victims of scams, with some scams target different age groups, such as social media extortion, which is aimed at younger people, according to RCMP.

Oceanside RCMP have not definitively seen AI used locally in scams, but it is possible AI could be used in the parent/grandparent scam to mimic a family member’s voice, according to Worth.

No less than nine types of scams have been reported to the Oceanside detachment so far this year.

Grandparent/parent scam

The parent/grandparent scam involves a call from someone posing as law enforcement or the victim’s child or grandchild. The fraudster will explain how a child or grandchild has been arrested for an offence and needs money for bail. The victim is convinced to e-transfer money or buy gift cards and provide the card numbers and codes to the caller.

Cryptocurrency scam

Another scam reported to police involves cryptocurrency, with a person contacted via social media and convinced to invest in cryptocurrency by depositing money into an account, which is fake and inaccessible once the money is deposited.

READ MORE: RCMP: PQB resident reports losing $23,500 in online cryptocurrency scam

Online Jobs scam

This scam involves people finding job opportunities on Facebook where they are paid with credits through a cryptocurrency account. In order to access their credits, victims are convinced to set up and self-fund a crypto account.

Once the self-funded deposit is made, the victim can no longer access their funds or their credits they were paid from the job opportunity.

Social Media Extortion

People are contacted through social media and over time they become involved in an online relationship with the fraudster and eventually the victims are convinced to share nude photos. Once the nude photos are obtained, the fraudster threatens to post the photos online unless the victim pays them money or buys them gift cards.

Facebook Marketplace scam

A victim will buy an item on Facebook sight unseen and is then “ghosted” by the seller, never receiving the item they paid for nor recovering their money.

Software Links scam

People click on links for software upgrades from a “pop-up” or in emails purported to be from a legitimate source, leading them to providing personal information (names, SIN, address, birthdates) to the fraudster and/or allowing the fraudster remote access to their computer to “fix” a software issue. The remote access allows fraudsters to access financial files and accounts on the computer for fraudulent purposes.

Free Teslas scam

A person will be contacted by someone purporting to be Elon Musk wanting to give them a free Tesla car if they send money by way of Apple gift cards in advance to cover the shipping fees. There is no free Tesla.

Unsolicited fake bank calls

A victim will receive a phone call by someone purporting to be from their bank and are asked if they had made a specific online transaction. When the caller says no, the fraudster transfers the victim to the bank’s “fraud department” where another fraudster convinces the victim they are investigating the fraudulent transaction and eventually convinces them to purchase gift cards and provide card numbers and codes to the fraudster,

Romance scam

People become involved in a months-long online relationship where the fraudster, who usually says they live or work overseas, eventually convinces the victim to transfer them money to help with transport costs, legal fees or an investment. The fraudster was never interested in a relationship with the victim.

The Anti-Fraud Centre provides advice on how people can protect themselves from scams and fraud.

“The general advice is that if it is too good to be true, it probably is,” Worth said.

Oceanside RCMP has been presenting fraud awareness talks to various community groups over the last two years in order to educate and prevent people from becoming victims, and will continue to do so.

— NEWS Staff