(ELLIOT LAKE, ON) – The East Algoma Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) would like to remind the public that there are many schemes being used to defraud the public and businesses. If you receive any unsolicited communication by any means asking for money to be given, be cautious and suspicious.
Romance scams, the scammer convinces you to enter a virtual, online relationship so they gain your trust and affection. This can occur through email messages, phone calls, and fake profiles on social media and dating sites. Eventually, the scammer may ask you for money for travel, a medical emergency or family assistance – making it seem urgent or like an emergency. The scammers will try to use any means necessary to convince you that their requests are legitimate. The majority of fraud is not committed by amateurs and they will use technology to their advantage.
Look out for these red flags and be suspicious:
- when someone you haven’t met in person expresses their love to you
- if the person wants to quickly move to a private or different mode of communication (email, text, Whatsapp, Google Hangouts etc.)
- if they always have an excuse not to meet in person
- if you receive poorly/oddly written messages, sometimes even addressing you by the wrong name
- if the individual claims to live close to you but is working overseas
- if they act distressed or angry to guilt you into sending money
- if the individual discourages you from discussing them or their situation with your friends and family (attempting to isolate you from those who may be suspicious of the relationship)
Emergency scams, sometimes called grandparent scams, involve fraudsters contacting seniors or family members claiming that their grandchild or a loved one was in an accident, charged with an offence such as a impaired driving or drug offences. Fraudsters will claim that they are law enforcement officials, lawyers and even impersonate the grandchild/loved one. They’ll proceed to advise the victim that a payment for bail or fine is required immediately in order for the family member to avoid going to jail.
Another variation of the emergency scam can be by means of email. Victims report receiving an email claiming to come from one of their email contacts. The email will ask for a favour: purchase gift cards because they’re ill or have lost their wallet. In some cases, the sender’s email account has been compromised or contact list has been obtained by the fraudsters.
Warning Signs – How to protect yourself
· If you receive a suspicious phone call claiming to be from a family member in an emergency situation, hang up the phone and contact them directly on the number you have in your contact list
· If the caller claims to be a law enforcement official and asked you to pay a fine or bail, hang up and call your police directly
· Listen to that inner voice that is screaming at you: “This doesn’t sound right”.
· Be careful what you post online. Scammers can use details shared on social media platforms and dating sites for targeting purposes. Suspects can easily gather names and details about your loved ones
· Be suspicious of telephone calls that require you to immediately take action and request bail money for a family member in distress
· Be careful with caller ID numbers that look familiar. Scammers use technology to disguise the actual number they are calling from (spoof) and make it appear as a trusted phone number
· If you receive an email or text message claiming to be from a friend or loved one asking for money, make the outgoing call to the person by looking up the legitimate phone number you have for them in your contact list.
· Use unique and strong passwords for all social media and email accounts.
Remember, any legitimate agency will NEVER request a payment by wire transfer, online currency such as bitcoin, pre-paid credit cards or pre-paid gift cards such as Google Play, iTunes, Vanilla, etc. Scammers will ask to purchase large denomination gift cards as form of payment. Also, they will ask to send cash, but hidden inside pages of a book, then box the book and wrap it in an excessive amount of packing tape.
“Awareness is key when it comes to recognizing frauds and scams. There are so many types out there but the better educated the public are, the less chance they have to fall victim to these ruthless scammers. Don’t keep it a secret – talk to a friend, family member, neighbour, or police before making any decisions to send money to people you don’t know”, says OPP Community Safety Officer Phil Young.
If you believe that someone is posing as a fraudster on the phone, hang up. Also, you can report it through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501, or www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm