Phone scams and suspicious messages seem to be everywhere, and Canadians – even those in the Hope area – are feeling the pain.
March is Fraud Prevention Month, sparking a month-long government education campaign designed to make Canadians more aware of fraud, scams and how to prevent devastating losses.
According to a recent local survey from The Standard, only about two per cent respondents reported suspicious messages they received to law enforcement. However, Staff Sgt. Travis De Coene of the Hope RCMP said the local police still get a fair number of calls about potential scams.
“If no money has been lost, we are not generating a file but we refer (cases) to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre,” De Coene said.
On a local level, the focus tends to be on education as many scam calls come from out of the country even if they appear to be local and are therefore impossible to follow up on.
Of those surveyed, more than 90 per cent received a suspicious or scam-related phone call within the past month. A majority of respondents had not received a suspicious text message while a little more than half of those surveyed reported suspicious emails appearing in their inboxes.
The suspicious messages spanned a wide variety of claims designed to take sensitive financial information or directly take money from the would-be victims. Nearly 70 per cent of suspicious messages related to taxes or claimed to be from the Canadian Revenue Agency. About 29 per cent of respondents said the suspicious messages related to banking problems, and computer problems or offers of repair services as well as a lottery or money-winning scams were responsible for about 18 per cent of messages each. Other scam messages related to credit card security, winning a prize from a big box story and reported over-payment of a bill.
A few messages aimed to scare would-be victims into providing sensitive information under threat of arrest, claiming the person messaged had a warrant for their arrest.
“I get phone calls regularly, always from different numbers but always starting with 604-798,” another respondent added. “It’s always a recording saying that I will be arrested because of criminal activity regarding my SIN.”
Employment scams were not common among those surveyed, but they can be just as dangerous as the more regular scam messages.
“Someone offered me a job and did a fake interview by online chat,” one respondent wrote. “They said I was successful and that I would need a particular computer and printer. Then they asked me to send them a photo of my driver’s licence so they could ‘set me up on payroll.’”
About 18 per cent of survey respondents know someone who has fallen for a scam that started with a suspicious message. Most of the scams involved computer repairs, sending money to “family” or some other credit card-related issue.
One respondent lost hundreds of dollars on a computer repair scam before catching on.
“My computer came up stating there was a severe issue,” they wrote. “It started with me letting (‘Microsoft technicians’) into my computer over the phone and all the problems they stated kept on growing. Originally, they thought it was fixed for $100, but before I hung up the phone, they found another issue that I paid $500 for. When that was corrected, there was another issue for $700, and then I realized it was a scam. I removed the battery and unplugged my laptop and hung up the phone.”
According to the latest statistics from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, there have been 11,266 reports of fraud this year as of the end of February. There were more than 69,000 reports in 2020.
The Anti-Fraud Centre estimates there have been more than 7,600 victims of fraud this year (41,000 in all of 2020) and that Canadians lost a total of $34.6 million to fraud as of Feb. 28.
The Standard conducted the survey online, gathering 54 responses over the course of three days.
If anyone gets a phone call that sounds suspicious De Coene said the best thing residents can do is hang up and report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or through their website at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.