Hardly a week goes by at the Trail Times without hearing of another cyber scam, fraud or data breach exposing personal information to hackers and potential identity thieves. This advisory, courtesy the Sidney RCMP, provides comprehensive and tangible ways to protect yourself from scammers, cold-callers, and fraudsters, which police aptly refer to as “invisible predators.”
In today’s age, we depend on computers and smart phones for many daily tasks.
A growing concern across the province and beyond is the prevalence of those who look to take advantage of people through the internet and over the phone.
“As a police officer, I have seen the direct effect that both cybercrime and telephone fraud have on members of our community,” warns Cpl. Andres Sanchez of the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP.
“The best way to keep yourself from falling victim to these fraudsters is to become educated on some of the tactics which are being used.”
In 2020, the Anti-Fraud Centre of Canada recorded 42,185 victims, equating to roughly $106M scammed from Canadians. In 2021, this number is expected to be higher.
“The tactics used by fraudsters come in many forms and can sound very convincing to those they prey upon. Fraudsters may contact you through your email, text messages, social media, or through telephone calls,” Flores explains.
“In some common scenarios we are seeing, the fraudster will use intimidation such as pretending to be an authority figure from the Canada Revenue Agency or the Canadian Border Service Agency. They may even say you will be arrested unless you pay a fee,” he explained.
“In other scenarios the fraudster will promise you prizes, great wealth, vacations, or cars if you first pay some underlying hidden fee.”
Tips from police
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Don’t be intimidated by high-pressure sales tactics. If a telemarketer tries to get you to buy something or to send them money right away, request the information in writing.
Watch out for urgent pleas that play on your emotions.
Do your research.
Always verify that the organization you’re dealing with is legitimate before you take any other action: verify Canadian charities with the Canada Revenue Agency; verify collection agencies with the appropriate provincial agency.
Look online for contact information for the company that supposedly called you, and call them to confirm.
Verify any calls with your credit card company by calling the phone number on the back of your credit card.
If you’ve received a call or other contact from a family member in trouble, talk to other family members to confirm the situation.
Watch out for fake or deceptive ads, or spoofed emails. Always verify the company and its services are real before you contact them.
Don’t give out personal information.
Beware of unsolicited calls where the caller asks you for personal information, such as: your name; your address; your birth date; your Social Insurance Number (SIN); your credit card or banking information.
If you didn’t initiate the call, you don’t know who you’re talking to.
Beware of upfront fees.
Many scams request you to pay fees in advance of receiving goods, services, or a prize. It’s illegal for a company to ask you to pay a fee upfront before they’ll give you a loan.
There are no prize fees or taxes in Canada. If you won it, it’s free.
Protect your computer.
Watch out for urgent-looking messages that pop up while you’re browsing online. Don’t click on them or call the number they provide.
No legitimate company will call and claim your computer is infected with a virus.
Some websites, such as music, game, movie, and adult sites, may try to install viruses or malware without your knowledge. Watch out for emails with spelling and formatting errors, and be wary of clicking on any attachments or links. They may contain viruses or spyware.
Make sure you have anti-virus software installed and keep your operating system up to date.
Never give anyone remote access to your computer. If you are having problems with your system, bring it to a local technician.
Protect your online accounts.
By taking the following steps, you can better protect your online accounts from fraud and data breaches; create a strong password by using at least eight characters including upper and lower case letters, and at least one number and symbol.
Create unique passwords for every online account including social networks, emails, financial and other accounts.
Use a combination of pass-phrases that are easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess.
Enable multi-factor authentication.
Only log into your accounts from trusted sources.
Don’t reveal personal information over social media.
If in doubt, ask a friend or family member for their opinion or feel free to call your local RCMP detachment for assistance. Additional information is available at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre: antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.
If you have been the victim of fraud, contact your local police and/or report the event online to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.