Financial crimes is a growing concern for victims and law enforcement. Financial crimes deal primarily with money for goods and can range from; counterfeit property, credit card fraud (including Interact, e-transfers and wire transfers), investment scams, Ponzi /pyramid schemes and emergency scams.
Counterfeit Fraud – relates to counterfeit property and merchandise sold either in person or on line. When shopping online pay close attention to the website. Check for spelling or grammatical errors and before you purchase anything look at the contact information. A company will usually use its own name in the email address as a contact such as firstname.lastname@example.org as opposed to an email ending in gmail, Hotmail or yahoo.
Credit Card Fraud –includes all sorts of card frauds including; credit cards, debit cards and gift cards. Canada has seen a huge spike in skimming frauds where culprits are able to lift the data contained on the magnetic stripe on credit cards through compromised pin pads. Once the credit card number is known they are able to purchase items online without even having the card in their possession. They can then use that card to purchase items or load money onto a prepaid credit card which cannot be traced. Often culprits will also ask someone to forward money via a wire transfer service from prepaid credit cards, which once complete, cannot be traced. If using a pin pad at a store and the chip does not work or you are unable to insert your card into the chip reader it is best to err on the side of caution and assume that pin pad is compromised.
Investment Scams –Typical investment scams will involve real estate development or RRSP money investment opportunity in which the fraudster will ask for a large sum of money in return for the promise of an immediate and high cash return. However it is likely that once you hand over your money they will close their fake company down and you will be left with nothing but an empty account. A good rule of thumb is to always get the investment offer in writing and to personally inspect the possible investment to ensure it is real before investing your hard earned money.
Gifting Scam (Pyramid scams) – these scams are similar to investment scams as they rely strictly on investors to keep growing. They base their company on recruiting family members to invest/gift money. Recruiting newcomers to the company is highly important. New members will be ensured that there is nothing illegal about the gifting program as it is simply a gift. This program IS illegal and not sustainable as eventually thousands of people will be defrauded of the money that they “gifted”.
Emergency Scams – There has been an increase in the frequency of the “Grandparent scam” reported, where a culprit will contact an elderly person posing as their grandchild. The individual will sound scared and quiet and call the person on the other line “Grandma” or “Grandpa”, and when the person on the other line calls them by the name of their grandchild they will make up a story that they have been arrested for some sort of crime and are being held in jail and need money. They will often request for the money to be wired to a certain place, often out of province and say that the money is going to a lawyer and they cannot tell their parents. Remember to always check with your family members and know if they are gone somewhere or not before transferring money. During tax season the CRA scam is also extremely prevalent and will try to put pressure on the targeted person that if they don’t pay an owed amount of money or fine, that they will be arrested and charged. The CRA does not operate this way so don’t fall victim.
In general a good rule to remember when it comes to money is to always be skeptical. Always ask questions before transferring or investing. A professional will have no problem answering your questions and showing credentials and references to prove they are who they are.
For more information on common frauds or scams and for information on how to protect yourself visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.
Sgt. Adam Gregory
Medicine Hat Police Service
Community Support Unit