Be vigilant to avoid becoming a victim

Aug 14th, 2014 | By | Category: ABCs of Fraud

By Bud McGinnis

Irrespective of how well informed we are about frauds and scams, any one of us can become a victim.  Just think of the 40 million credit cards that were compromised in the Target store chain last year.  Should you be one of those cardholders, your information has fallen into the domain of a criminal.  You did nothing wrong.  You merely used your credit card to pay for a legitimate purchase, something a large proportion of the North American population does every day.

Victimization in this way is very disturbing.  It should, however, provide an even greater incentive to recognize and avoid frauds and scams.  And this type of criminal activity seems to be increasing in current society.  In the last week alone, I’ve encountered four examples of such criminal activity; two were picked up and reported through the news media. The other two came directly to me, one via the internet and the other by phone.

The one report dealt with a senior couple who received a very disturbing phone call.  When they answered the phone the sobbing caller indicated an urgent need for cash.  He identified himself as their grandson who had been in a car accident, had a broken jaw, and was in jail charged with drunk driving.  He urgently needed bail money, along with money to pay a lawyer.  Would his grandparents help because he dared not contact his parents?  They would just kill him if they knew what he had done.  What is a doting grandparent to do?  Emotion often trumps rational thought and the money is sent.  In this instance rational thought prevailed, and the potential victims did some checking.   Indeed, they found that their grandson was not even in Montreal and that the whole sobbing episode was a hoax.  That one phone call saved these grandparents in the order of $2,000.  It’s an event we should all keep in mind.

The second news report dealt with “work at home schemes.” In the case reported, the respondent applied for an editor’s job and was accepted almost immediately.  No questions were asked about prior experience or salary expectation.  Included in the information requested list, however, was banking information, name, branch and account number.  He was also asked to provide a copy of his driver’s license or his passport for “identification” purposes.  The lack of detail regarding the job, coupled with the request for personal and financial information, caused the potential victim to reconsider and he discontinued all contact.  It seems likely that if the information requested had been sent, the individual would have quickly become a victim of identity fraud.  Another event to keep in mind.

There’s an old saying that what goes around comes around.  This is certainly true of scam attempts that came directly to me because I’ve reported on both before.  First there was an email, supposedly from Bell Canada, saying that the credit card I was using to pay my Bell account would not accept this month’s charge.  However, if I clicked on the Click Here button and updated my credit card information, all would be well.  This was clearly an attempt to gain my credit card information by a con artist because I don’t pay my Bell account that way.  In addition, the Account ID provided in the email bears no similarity to that of my true Bell account.   It’s just twelve months since I received an identical email, although the Account ID was different.  It’s important to remember that legitimate companies do not contact clients by email for this type of information.

The other scam came in the form of three phone calls.  First, when I answered the phone I was told that Microsoft Windows Technical Support was calling because it had detected major virus contamination in my system and I needed their assistance.  After listening to their “offer” for a few seconds I broke in, told them that they were running a scam, wanted nothing further to do with them and then hung up.  About four hours later I received the second call with the same message.  This time I pointed out that I had been contacted earlier and suggested that their internal communication lines needed improvement.   And I repeated that I wanted no part in their fraudulent operation and abruptly terminated the call.  I had just returned the receiver to the cradle when the phone rang again.  The Caller ID window indicated that it was the same agency calling.  It rang three times and then quit.  I’ve not heard from them since but clearly they don’t give up easily!


If you are part of a group that wishes to learn more about frauds and scams call 613-564-5555 and leave a message.  A Rotarian will call back to initiate arrangements for a presentation.  All presentations are free and usually last between 40 and 60 minutes.

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