The Prince George RCMP continue to receive many fraud reports every day. Although the type of frauds being reported varies, the most popular remains the tax fraud.
Fraudsters impersonating employees of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will call (or e-mail) the victim providing one of several different stories.
In most local cases the fraudster states that a payment must be made immediately or an arrest warrant will be issued (or already has been issued) and the RCMP will arrest them. This is not the case, as outlined further below.
The instructions are usually to wire the money using a money wiring company or to purchase cash cards and forward the card numbers and security numbers. Wiring money is untraceable and irreversible. Similarly, purchasing cash cards and providing the scammers with the card number and security number would be very difficult to trace. In some cases the persons are told to deposit the money in a specific bank account. If you do not pay right away, the fraudsters keep calling and are very aggressive. The Canada Revenue Agency does not use any of these tactics.
In legitimate cases where people owe money, there are processes in place to allow payment or dispute long before any warrants are issued and the police are involved. If you are hearing about this alleged debt for the first time, the police will not be coming for you. If you get these calls or e-mails and are concerned they are real, call the Canada Revenue Agency before you do anything else.
The Prince George RCMP have also received reports of similar frauds involving other agencies. Again, contact the agency first and do not send money.
In order to avoid tax scams, remember the following general words of advice:
• Do not take immediate action. The government has processes in place to acquire owed money, none of which are immediate;
• Know who you are dealing with. Obtain their contact information and search it on the internet. Often the contact info will be associated to frauds and not the CRA. This is a clear warning that this is not legitimate;
• Hang-up and call the Canada Revenue Service. CRA, like most government agencies, have a toll free phone number in the blue pages of the phone book or from their website, www.cra-arc.gc.ca;
• Never give your personal information to anyone that calls you over the phone. This is especially the case when an organization such as the Canada Revenue Agency calls and should have all your necessary information already;
• Never agree to wire back funds to the government. Our governments do not do business this way.
For more information about fraud scams involving the CRA, visit the Canada Revenue Agency web page at http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/scrty/frdprvntn/menu-eng.html.
Fraud is often a global crime. Most computer and telephone related frauds originate from outside the province and many from different parts around the world. Here is a list of some of the most popular scams affecting people throughout Canada including the Prince George area:
• Emergency or “grandparent” scam. A popular scam targets grandparents and involves wiring money to loved ones in urgent need of money. The victim receives a phone call and upon answering, they hear “Hi grandma/grandpa, do you know who this is?”
The grandparent usually replies with a name and without even realizing it, they just provided the fraud artist with the name of a grandchild. From there, they ask for money to get them out of jail or to cover costs of a car accident or some other variation where they are out of town and need financial help. Usually there is some sort of request not to tell anyone about the incident. Often the grandparent is so eager to help; they rush down to wire money without checking the story. The victims truly believe they were talking to the family member. Some variations involve a lawyer calling on behalf of the grandchild;
• The prize pitch. Consumers receive a call and are told they won a prize or two. The prizes usually include cash or a vehicle. The “winner” must purchase a product or pay the tax in advance to receive their prize. Variations include calls from “customs” representatives wanting you pay the duty on the “prize” as well as a request for a credit card number so that the money can be deposited into your account;
• Anti-virus scams. Some frauds involve fraudsters identifying themselves as representatives from software companies stating that your computer is slow or has a virus. Often they request remote access to your computer over the internet. By allowing them access, you open yourself (and your computer) to inherent risks. ‘Keylogger’ or virus programs can be installed and can provide the criminals with sensitive information including user IDs and passwords. Another variation involves cyber-crime investigators stating that your computer has been used to “hack” websites;
• Phishing e-mails. Victims receive an e-mail appearing to be from a legitimate business, often a bank or financial institution. The e-mail states that your personal information or account has been compromised and requests you click on a provided internet link. The link leads to a web page where you are requested to enter personal or financial information;
• Rental property scam. Victims have advertised a rental property on a classified ad website. A fraudster from out of town contacts the property owner and rents the property. A cheque is sent in excess of the amount required for rent and deposit. The victim wires the remaining money back to the fraud artist. When the cheque doesn’t clear, the victim is out the money they wired;
• Cheque cashing scam. Victims are approached by a person or persons on the street. They request that the victim cash a cheque for them, as they “lost their ID”. The victim deposits the check and then withdraws the cash and provides it to the criminal(s);
• Website classified ads. An item is offered for sale on a popular classified website. The buyer agrees to wire money to the seller in advance and never receives the item.
For a complete list of scams in more detail, view the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.
“Police are asking everyone to make fraud a topic of everyday conversation,” said Cpl. Craig Douglass, spokesperson for the Prince George RCMP. “Make sure everyone knows what to look for and how to avoid being a victim of fraud.”
The Prince George RCMP would like to offer some advice on how to prevent yourself or your loved ones from becoming a victim of fraud:
• Visit the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre (CAFC) website at www.antifraudcentre.ca and learn as much as you can about current fraud trends and how to protect yourself. The Canadian Anti-fraud Centre is a partnership between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Competition Bureau of Canada. The CAFC is a trusted source for fraud data and for educational and prevention resource materials. Everyone should frequent this site to: o Review the “top scams”;
o See the latest fraud alerts;
o Acquire resource material;
• Do not give out personal information. Never provide your personal info to someone over the phone or through the internet. Banks, financial institutions and utility companies do not call their clients to confirm personal information including your personal identification number (PIN), social insurance number or date of birth. Hang up and call your local branch or office;
• Do not send money. If you get a request from someone you believe to be a loved one asking for money, ask them questions that only they would know. Often the victims believe the person is truly a grandchild, they don’t even take the time to call the grandchild at home to confirm;
• Do not provide access to your computer. Providing someone remote access to your computer gives them full control. They can download ‘phishing’ programs and other viruses that can access your sensitive information;
• Do not purchase items to win a prize. In a legitimate contest, you do not have to purchase a product or pay a fee to receive the prize;
• Do not click on web links or reply to any e-mail requesting personal information. Legitimate businesses that require this information (such as your bank) will already have it and will never request you to verify it;
• Check the website or e-mail address. Often the website or e-mail address will be similar to a legitimate business, but not quite right. A simple variation or spelling mistake may tip you off to the scam right away and could save you thousands;
• Download a copy of the “Little Black Book of Scams”, your free guide to protecting yourself from fraud provided by the Competition Bureau of Canada. http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/03074.html
• When dealing with door to door businesses, call the Better Business Bureau and check the business out before paying or letting someone into your home;
• Be cautious of downloading computer programs from an untrusted site. Some programs are designed to send your personal info and passwords to the criminals that created the programs. Use only trusted sites and install reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware software;
• Check your credit card statements. Ensure you review your statements when you get them and immediately report any discrepancies to your credit card provider;
• Request a credit report. Take a few minutes and spend a few dollars every year to obtain a copy of your credit report. The process can be done on-line and only takes a few minutes. The fee may well save you thousands in the end;
• Ensure you talk to your family. Unfortunately, seniors are heavily targeted because they are so trusting and often want to help right away. Ensure you speak to your whole family about the dangers of providing personal information or money to anyone.
For information on fraud awareness and prevention, check out these websites:
• The Canadian Anti-fraud Centre – www.antifraudcentre.ca
• Be Fraud Aware – www.befraudaware.ca
• The Better Business Bureau – www.mbc.bbb.org
• Competition Bureau of Canada – www.competitionbureau.gc.ca
• Canadian Bankers Association – www.cba.ca