March 2021 marks the 17th anniversary of Fraud Prevention Month in Canada, a month-long crime prevention initiative aimed at educating and informing consumers and the community on how to recognize, report and stop fraud.
Each year, tens of thousands of Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life are defrauded, in excess of $100 million dollars in 2020 alone. The Medicine Hat Police Service has observed a sharp increase with the number of reported frauds more than doubling over the past three years.
There is no typical fraud victim in Canada. With advancements in technology it is now easier for scammers to obtain money or property through fraudulent means and to remain “faceless” as they do so.
Consumers have a role to play in stopping fraud by arming themselves with the facts and reporting fraud when they encounter it. Recognizing fraud is the first step to better protecting yourself. It is important for consumers to remain vigilant and aware of the many different types of fraud scams out there as they are ever changing and new trends are always emerging.
Throughout the month the MHPS Community Safety Unit will be sharing information on how to recognize and stop from falling victim to common frauds and scams. This week’s focus is on cybercrimes and online scams.
Cybercrime makes up a large component of all reported frauds and scams reported each year and can include any type of fraud/scam committed over the Internet. These can include; romance scams, online investments or marketplace scams, employment, loan, ticket sale or phishing scams.
With our increased reliance on Internet related technology, especially during the pandemic, fraudsters have become very tech savvy and have more time to invest in their criminal activities. Police have observed an increase in “data breach” information use by criminals where they are able to obtain a lot of personal information which can lead to identity theft and misuse of your credit card and banking information. These “data breaches” can, unfortunately, occur to any business who stores customer information electronically, including loan companies, online gaming systems and most online sales/delivery services. If you receive notification from a trusted source, such as your bank or telecommunications service provider, advising that you may have been subject to a “data breach”, MHPS suggests that you immediately change all passwords and ensure that they are strong passwords (using different characters, number, and letters in no particular sequence). Also, as a general safeguard, it is always good to cycle or change your passwords multiple times a year.
Each year, especially around tax return time, the number of complaints received from people reporting a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scam will increase.
In most cases, the target will receive a call that will be displayed as a local phone number. Upon answering the call, the target will hear an automated message the caller will identify themselves as being from the CRA. The automated voice will accuse the person targeted person of owing money and will also make threats to have the person arrested and charged. The automated recording will then direct the targeted person to “Press 1 to speak to an agent”. If the Targeted person presses 1, a person representing themselves as an agent of the Canada Revenue Agency will begin asking questions that will ultimately lead to The scammer will direct the person to provide personal information (SIN etc) or to purchase iTunes gift cards or other type of gift card to pay off their debt and instruct them to call back with the card codes. The cards will then be used by the scammer to sell on the black market.
The MHPS suggests that anyone receiving one of these automated calls, immediately hang-up. The CRA DOES NOT use automated calling systems and will have your Social Insurance Number on file. They will NEVER ask for payment in the form of gift cards.
Sometimes, the this scam will vary slightly and the caller will identify themselves as a police officers and advise the victim that their SIN has been compromised, and request that the victim confirm their number over the phone.
To protect against these common frauds, it is important to remain vigilant and NEVER provide personal or financial information over the phone. Likewise, never comply with an unsolicited phone caller who demands payment in gift cards.
- The CRA will never call and threaten to have you arrested for not paying your taxes.
- The CRA will never ask for payment in the form of gift cards or prepaid credit cards.
- If you are contacted and told you owe money, always confirm with the CRA directly. Look up the phone number online and do not use the call back number that the caller has provided. Do not trust your call display. It may say Police or ABC but in reality it is a scammer.
If your workplace sells gift cards, you can also help by being on the lookout for potential victims and inform them about this scam. Victims may seem stressed and agitated as they are purchasing a large amount of gift cards.
If you or someone you know is a victim of the CRA scam or any other has lost money due to a fraud contact the MHPS at 403-529-8481 to report.
Due to the extremely high volume of fraudulent call attempts, if you have received a fraudulent call but are not a victim (meaning you have not shared your personal information, bank information, and have not made any payment) then there is no need to report or contact police
To keep yourself in the loop about Fraud Prevention Month activities occurring provincially, follow the hashtag #FPM2021 on social media or visit the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association website at www.albertacrimeprevention.com/fraud-prevention-month.
For more information about frauds and scams visit the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre at http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm.
Sgt Adam Gregory
Medicine Hat Police Service
Community Safety Unit