Scams are all too common

Scams are all too common

Information is key to preventing fraud

  • Nov. 25, 2017 1:30 p.m.

I fear that Barrister Russell Thomas Esq. is going to be very disappointed in me.

I have been corresponding with him for the better part of a week and, during that time, have exchanged a series of emails in which Barrister Russell Thomas Esq. has promised to arrange for me to receive $14 million by posing as the heir or someone with my last name who died in a car crash in Britain. Apparently, I was the only Collins he could find.

Strange, that. I’m pretty sure there are others in Britain.

At any rate, in return, I’ve promised to share the ill-gotten funds equally with him, and, being that he seemed very nice, I didn’t mind that last part a bit. I’m sure he could use the money.

It’s taken awhile, but after a series of convoluted twists and turns to the proposal (and about 20 emails), he’s finally gotten to the point.

“The approval for transfer is out and attached to this email. However, the bank has asked that I pay a Tax fee of £67,000 Pounds and present the receipt before the transaction which has been approved will be allowed to be transferred to you as the next of Kin,” he wrote.

He then described how I can get funds to him to help pay this fee, whereupon I would receive my millions.

Of course, it’s a scam.

In fact, it was the fourth scam email I received this week, including one in which the Scotia Bank urgently needed me to verify my account information by visiting a very authentic-looking website with all the right logos and fonts – but of course it wasn’t a Scotia Bank site. It was what the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) calls a “spoofing site.” They’re made to look like the real thing, but they’re not.

I also got a call from the Canadian Revenue Agency last week. It seemed that I owed a lot of money in taxes and, unless I electronically processed a “bit coin” payment, they were going to issue a warrant for my arrest. I advised the stern-sounding caller that I was an RCMP officer (hey, he lied to me first) and the line immediately went dead.

Please note that I’m not making this up. It all happened in the same week.

Jessica Gunsun, a unit manager for the CAFC, said my experience is far from unusual. Every day millions of Canadians get telephone calls, emails and other correspondence all designed to con them out of their money.

And, as much as I’ve made light of my experience, the problem of internet and telephone scams is far from funny.

The most insidious example of people being hurt by the sub-human fraud artists is what Gunsun calls the “romance scammers.” They borrow identities from real people, generally overseas, and register fake identify profiles on dating sites. After striking up a romantic relationship involving numerous telephone conversations, they manage to engender true feelings on the part of their marks; a relationship the victim sees as love. Then, one day, they report a crisis of some kind.

Maybe they’ve been travelling abroad and have been robbed, or have lost their wallet and identification. The excuse varies, but the constant is that they are desperate.

They “reluctantly” ask for financial help to weather the storm so they can come and visit their true love and start a new life with their victim.

But always, something stands in the way – and always more money is needed.

The scam can go on for years and the victims are often so in love that they won’t listen to friends and family who try to intervene. They can lose everything they have. Last year this scam alone resulted in almost $21 million in reported losses. Gunsun estimates only five per cent of losses are actually reported.

The only way to combat these scams is for all of us to become a bit wiser and, unfortunately, more careful in our interactions with others.

The CAFC website has a depressingly long list of scams for your information, and staff there are happy to take your call and offer advice.

As for Barrister Russell Thomas Esq., I’m trying to decide when to tell him he’s been corresponding with a journalist and has become the butt of jokes around the office.

I may wait a little longer before I advise him that, this time, his scam hasn’t worked.