March is Fraud Prevention Month (FPM) in Canada. Throughout the month the MHPS Community Safety Unit has been sharing tips on how to recognize, reject and report common frauds and scams. The final week of FPM will focus on mass marketing and phone scams.
Mass marketing and phone scams are one of the most common types of frauds and involve attempts to obtain personal information or be provided money. The difficulty with these types of frauds is that the targets are often tricked into believing they are dealing with a legitimate company, or someone trusted. The fraudsters can be very convincing and work hard to manipulate the people they call.
Whether is it by phone or by email, if you cannot verify the identity of the person/company that you are dealing with, end the conversation and contact the business directly to confirm. Often fraudsters will use phone numbers that a “spoofed”, or copied, to look legitimate or emails that look real but are not. 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. These are easy things to confirm when you contact the businesses directly yourself.
One type of common phone scam is an emergency scam where a fraudster will contact a person posing as their relative. The individual will sound scared and quiet and call the person on the other line by their name or title such as “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 before transferring money.
Another common fraud is where someone is contacted by phone or email advising that they won a large sum of money or prize or requesting a small amount of money in return for a large investment. The fraudster then requests the person to simply send a small amount of money or gift card numbers to the fraudster in order to claim their prize. If you did not apply to win something, you will not win! Trust you gut and if it appears to good to be true, it likely is. You should never need to pay something in order to get a prize you have legitimately won.
With various types of frauds, the fraudsters will request that an email transfer of money be completed. The targeted person may believe that because they have an email, it must be legitimate. Frequently, once the money is sent by email, it is going to a bank account out of country and the chances of getting it back or identifying a suspect are very low. Once again, be very cautious about responding to these types of requests and never email money to someone if you cannot verify their identity.
Best advice is to always remain vigilant and skeptical. Never provide personal or financial information unless you are able confirm the request is legitimate. 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