By Sue Tiffin
Every once in awhile, my life is interrupted with a scam of some form in the shape of a phone call, an email or a text – or a series of them, really, as there’s never just one, is there?
Last week, I heard from some friends that they had received a text message from “Service Ontario” with a link to click in order to receive their $120 licence plate sticker refund. Service Ontario doesn’t send refunds through text, but it’s so easy in a world of busyness, multi-tasking and pandemic-induced brain fog to be duped.
March is Fraud Prevention Month and though we’re moving our way into April, it’s important to remind readers every once in awhile to be alert to tricksters – especially if you’re not active on Facebook or Twitter where so many alerts of prevalent scams and fraud are shared by news agencies and police.
As fraudsters often use impersonation tactics, causing you to trust they’re someone you care about, Fraud Prevention Month focuses on impersonation scams. Here are some of the top scams and fraud of 2021 as listed by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre so you’ll more easily know them when you see them:
• Crypto investment scams : Fraudsters pose as friends, family and others to offer fake investment opportunities to steal money. This was the highest reported scam based on dollar loss in 2021. Most often, it involves Canadians investing in cryptocurrency by downloading a trading platform and transferring cryptocurrency – but then victims are unable to withdraw funds they’ve transferred. Also looks like: romance turns into “investment opportunity”; phone calls asking for access to phone or computer; “friend” pitches an opportunity over social media.
• Extortion: Fraudsters pose as police officers, government agents, bank employees, Hydro company officials or Canada Border Services Agency or Canada Post, asking you for information that you normally wouldn’t give over the phone to people who have called you.
• Emergency/grandparent scams: Fraudsters contact seniors or family members claiming their grandchild or family member was hurt, charged with an offence, or ill and needs help. In some cases they might have gotten personal information from your Facebook profile so know accurate names and details of your life, and can sometimes sound like your family member with a spotty phone connection. If you think it’s your grandson, call your grandson before you send money.
• Phishing: Fraudsters use mass email campaigns that contain links that will infect your computer with malware. If you’re concerned you’re missing an important piece of information from someone by not clicking a link, call that person or company to confirm they sent the email.
Always avoid clicking anything unsolicited, try not to buy things from links you’ve clicked rather than directly going to a company’s website, take a moment before you act, and most importantly – remind others of this information so that when they get the text, call or email it’s top of mind.
If you think something might not be right about a purchase you’ve made that hasn’t arrived, phone calls you’re getting or feel a sinking feeling after you’ve clicked a link or responded to questions on the phone, contact the Haliburton Highlands OPP or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 to report what’s happened so that it might not happen to others.
Most importantly, remember that no matter how aware you are, sometimes the people who are trying to deceive you are good at what they do, and often prey on those of us who are most trusting, caring and wanting to help others. Being the victim of a scam or fraud can make us feel pretty crummy, but so often we’re fooled because we care for and trust others.