Scammers prey on uncertainty

A rash of fake Canada Revenue Agency messages are being reported in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing recently as scammers try to pry money out of unwitting victims.  The perpetrators are using voicemails intended to make people believe they are about to be sued by the CRA, unless they come up with money – fast.  That’s just one example of how scammers can operate and as the scheme’s become more complex and believable, it is increasingly important for people to keep up their guard.

While it is unlikely that we can be aware of every scam that is operating, it is reasonable to exercise a healthy dose of skepticism any time someone is asking you for money or information such as passwords to accounts that you hold.  By taking your security seriously you can protect yourself from a lot of unwanted attention.  This includes everyday considerations such as disposal of personal mail or who has access to your mailbox.  Online safety isn’t limited to password protection but should also include a review of privacy and security settings on social media. 

Scammers can come in all manner of forms but an important consideration is how often they present themselves to the victim.  Unsolicited e-mails, phone calls, or even a knock at the door are exactly when a healthy dose of disbelief will serve an intended victim well.   The first rule of thumb in every instance is, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”  Also, if it seems officious and threatening, it’s likely a scam.  Using the CRA as an example, if there was a problem with your file, you would receive a notification by mail, but the Canada Revenue Agency does not make threatening phone calls, request information by phone or by email, and will not accept credit cards as a method of payment.

While caution should be taken in every interaction, a great many of the scams that have targeted Canadians happen online.  Many e-mail accounts will separate what they call ‘junk mail’ for you, but that system isn’t perfect.  It is always best to leave suspicious looking messages alone and stay away from any links they may include.  Online shopping can also expose a person to fraudulent activity and care should be taken to ensure sites are reputable and safe before making a purchase. 

The RCMP runs the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in concert with the Competition Bureau and the Ontario Provincial Police.  They say that if you believe you have been the victim of a fraud it is important that you report the case to your local police and the CAFC.  Their website offers a more complete list and includes information for victims and family members who want to help or have suspicions that a loved one has been targeted by scammers.  That information can be found at www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/scams-fraudes/index-eng.htm The province also hosts an online resource page that explains a number of common fraud scams at www.ontario.ca/page/report-scam-or-fraud

Unfortunately, these schemes are becoming more and more sophisticated and Canadians lost over $70 million to the top nine scams in 2016 alone. The RCMP warns that once someone has succumbed to fraud, they are likely to have their information sold to other scammers.  That is another reason to take the time to be extra cautious up front and to recognize that the best way to fight these types of crime is through awareness.