Tools available to combat fraud

Apr 15th, 2015 | By | Category: ABCs of Fraud

By Bud McGinnis

Last month we reviewed “Red Flags” and how so many frauds and scams deal with offers that are just too good to be true. Perhaps the victim is “guaranteed” a very high return, say 15% on his investment, because it’s invested with an off-shore firm that pays no taxes. Alternatively, it may be a winning number on a sweepstake, or untold wealth for allowing a foreign prince to deposit a large sum of found money directly into your bank account. Many other instances can be envisioned, but in all cases the returns are “too good to be true” and any money flowing goes directly into the pocket of the fraudster.

There’s another type of fraud that succeeds because of the honest society in which we grew up, when homes were never locked.  Now we lock them even when we are inside. Although times have changed greatly, that “honesty” gene is still part of us.  Indeed, it takes effort for many of us to realize that the caller on the other end of phone line may not be who he says he is. Or the lady at the door really doesn’t represent the charity she is speaking of.  She’s there for herself; any cash or credit card information obtained will be used to her own benefit.

A third type of fraud has blossomed over the past few years with the development of the internet and all the possibilities it offers. Moreover, seniors are now deeply involved with computers and are targeted by fraudsters and scam artists.  Just think how email has helped the Nigerian 419 crook.  In the past he had to type his letter, generally poorly done and on poor quality paper, then address, stamp and post the letter.  It was both time consuming and expensive.  Now that same letter can be well prepared and sent to thousands of potential victims around the world by just pressing the “send” button.  In addition, of course, a great range of criminal opportunities have opened up with the targeted emails and phishing expeditions that have become so popular.

Fortunately, the news media is effective in keeping the public informed about such criminal activities in our region.  Moreover, a great deal of help is also available on the internet.  One needs only to go to Google and type RCMP, press enter, and you have the Mounted Police website in front of you.  Among the many items of interest is a listing of the various frauds and scams employed to separate us from our wealth – Identity Theft, Phishing, Advance Fee, Credit Card and Debit Card Fraud, and so forth.  The means by which each scheme is used to defraud the victim is described when you click on it.

There is also a section that lists schemes that are currently in play in the region. Currently, for example, there’s a telephone scam where the call is supposedly made by an RCMP officer. When the potential victim answers the phone, the caller identifies himself as an RCMP officer who is calling to collect outstanding fines, or income taxes. The caller informs the victim that he must pay immediately or will be arrested within 24 hours. In most cases, there is a level of authenticity because the number for the RCMP National Headquarters General Inquiries line – 613-993-7267 appears on the victim’s call display. He may also use a variety of other scam tactics, like the 24-hour limit on making payment.

The RCMP website clearly states that it does not contact individuals for the purpose of collecting fines or taxes, and never asks the public to make a payment over the telephone. Anyone who receives a call from someone alleging to be a police officer collecting fines or taxes should hang up immediately and contact their local police service and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (Toll free 1-888-495-8501).

There are many other agencies that provide valuable information of this type.
The Ottawa Police Services and the OPP both maintain up-to-date web pages with respect to scams and frauds. Likewise, the Better Business Bureau,  the Senior Citizens Council, Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP) and the Competition Bureau provide a great deal of useful information.  You need only Google the name of the organization followed by “Frauds and Scams” and their webpage opens showing how the criminal operates and what you can do to protect yourself.

There is one other organization that I came upon recently that also provides a great variety of easily understood information.  The email address is ConsumerFraudReporting.org.

We must remember that the best of information has no value unless it is used.  Accordingly, it’s important to remain alert, remembering that these criminals are in our midst at all times. Remember also to take time to evaluate offers that are “too good to be true,” or designed to take advantage of your honesty and trust. Talk with others if in doubt.

In closing, we again make the offer of a free presentation at your convenience to any group wishing to learn more about frauds and scams and how to avoid being victimized. In Ottawa just dial 613-564-5555 and leave a message. A Rotarian will call back to make arrangements. Whenever possible a police officer participates with Rotarians in these presentations.

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