Beware of re-occurring low-tech scams

Nov 12th, 2014 | By | Category: ABCs of Fraud

By Bud McGinnis

Telephones, computers, internet, ATMs, and email are all part of a new age. Although fraudsters and scam artists have fully embraced this new technology, personal losses can still occur via old low-tech schemes. Although we’ve commented on some of them before, a couple are worth mentioning again.

Theft in the supermarket still occurs. Sadly, we still see a shopper’s open purse sitting in a shopping cart with no one nearby. Perhaps the owner has momentarily left the cart and purse in front of the potatoes when she remembered that she wanted some onions too. The observant thief recognizes the opportunity and quickly removes the wallet from the purse. When the shopper returns from the onion bin she’s unaware that anything has happened. Only later, at the checkout counter, does she become aware of her loss. She has no money and her credit card is also missing; indeed, she is unable to pay for the groceries that she has so carefully selected. Unfortunately, however, this is just the immediate problem. Driver’s license, health card, credit cards and other such documents are also missing. Considerable time, effort, money, and inconvenience will be required before all replacements can be acquired.

There is a second low-tech scheme that is also used under such circumstances. The busy shopper with her purse sitting in the cart is stopped by a foreign lady who has difficulty with the English language and asks for assistance. Help is required in reading the label or in determining the price. Unless the shopper has kept her purse in sight throughout the discussion, an accomplice of the one requesting help takes the wallet from the purse and promptly disappears. Of course, this is an arrangement made by the thieves in advance of the robbery. We must forever be aware that such thieves are around and that the honest shopper, with her cart and purse, is the intended target.

At this time of year we are made ever more aware of the number of people in our community who need assistance. Charitable organizations compete for your support. About 80,000 charities are recognized by Revenue Canada and are authorized to issues tax receipts for your donation. Fraudsters and scam artists ply their trade throughout the year but are particularly active at Christmas with respect to charitable giving. It’s with this in mind that we offer a couple of suggestions which may help to avoid losses to con artists.

It’s not uncommon to receive a phone call from someone requesting a charitable donation for a good cause. Most of these calls are from legitimate organizations requesting support for all the right reasons. Remember, however, that unless you recognize the voice of the caller, you are talking with a stranger. Accordingly, it’s wise to take the approach that many are now using and ask the caller to forward the information to you by mail. By so doing, you can review the request and make your decision without feeling pressured. Indeed, you can seek outside advice should you wish to do so. No legitimate charity will object to such a request.

The “copy-cat” approach is often used as these crooks attempt to divert your contribution from the intended charity to their own pocket. This is done by using a bogus name very similar to that of the true charity. Let’s use the Alzheimer’s Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County as an example. Fraudsters just change it slightly and it comes out as the Alzheimer’s Association of Ottawa and Renfrew County. Too often the donor hears the name Alzheimer’s, and knowing there is need for support, will contribute. As a result, the contribution intended for the charity goes directly into the pocket of the crook.

This is also the time of year when homeowners who can no longer clear their own driveways and sidewalks need help with snow removal. To meet that demand, snow removal companies are actively searching for, and signing up, clients. Before signing any contract, however, be sure the company can provide the service needed. If you’re newly in need of this service check with current clients, the Better Business Bureau or friends to get an evaluation of capability. Remember, the lowest bid may not be your “best buy.” We remember well the problems created by a snow removal service in this area several years ago. Do your homework, engage a reliable snow removal service, and you’ll have ready access to house and garage throughout the winter.

And now we close with this offer. If you belong to a group that might be interested in learning more about scams and frauds, call 613-564-5555 and leave a message. A Rotarian will call back to commence arrangements for a free presentation.

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