It’s (always) Fraud Awareness Month – Be Vigilant!

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Cst. Raj Kumar and Cst. Amber Briggs of the Economic Crime Unit of the Surrey RCMP. Photos by Ray Hudson

By Ray Hudson

Cst. Raj Kumar and Cst. Amber Briggs of the Economic Crime Unit of the Surrey RCMP.  Photos by Ray Hudson
Cst. Raj Kumar and Cst. Amber Briggs of the Economic Crime Unit of the Surrey RCMP
Photos by Ray Hudson
Jeanette Jackson of the Better Business Bureau of the Lower Mainland.   Photo: Ray Hudson
Jeanette Jackson of the Better Business Bureau of the Lower Mainland. Photo: Ray Hudson

Surrey: In this age of computers, internet and world-wide communication it is not just the old latin adage that the buyer must beware, it has come down to ‘Everyone Beware – all the time.’ The come at you through the mail, email, telephone and internet.

Technology has made communication so easy, almost eliminating the risk of getting caught – especially when the thief is in Africa, India, Europe or anywhere else in the world. There are people waiting, with a large variety of traps, to steal your money or your identity. Most “white hat” experts – the good guys – will tell you your best protection is you.

The RCMP reports that fraud costs Canadians $10 billion each year. Unfortunately, nine out of ten Canadians who are victimized don’t speak to anyone about it. And it’s a growing business attracting those bad guys who don’t want the risks associated with the drug trade. One police officer told me, “there’s all sorts of money, but no one gets shot.”

So it’s up to you to be aware and be careful. In presentation by the Surrey Board of Trade this week, were fraud experts from the Better Business Bureau of the Lower Mainland, members of the Surrey RCMP Economic Crime Unit, the law firm of McQuarrie Hunter LLP, and the Canada-wide firm, Xpera Risk Solutions.

Although they were speaking to the Surrey business community, the message is universal. In your business and personal life, be aware of the threats that exist and prepare to avoid becoming a victim of the fraudster when he comes calling – whether through the snail mail, e-mail, internet or telephone.

Jeanette Jackson of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) presented their annual top ten scams with my commentary and the BBB’s protection tips:

  1. Auto scams are the most prevalent: Do your homework: find out what the vehicle is really worth, have it inspected, check the registration, or buy from a licensed dealer. If the seller is pushing to deal now or lose it, let it go. Tip: Find out the history of the vehicle before buying.
  2. Emotional Scams, fraudsters on the phone or internet set up phony websites when disasters happen. They sound authentic and the websites look legitimate. Make it a rule not to donate over the phone or internet. Tip: Donate to organizations you have given to in the past.
  3. Identity Theft: Callers claiming to be from “Microsoft,” tell you your computer is infected and describe all sorts of scary consequences unless they fix it. Hang up. Tip: Do not give anyone remote access to your computer unless you initiated the contact.
  4. 4. Social Media Scam: If you get a friend request from someone who is already a friend, be wary. If you’re already connected or don’t know the person, don’t take the bait, don’t open links that may put malware on your computer. Tip: If you question the validity of the request, just turn it down. What my friends did was advise me that it was going on so I could deal with it – bonus.
  5. Romance Scam: If you’re tempted by online dating, be cautious about giving out any personal information. Tip: Meet the person face to face before giving any personal information out.
  6. Utilities Scam: If a caller claims to be from the hydro, gas or other utility, or even the Canada Revenue Agency, demanding payment of a balance by credit card, don’t participate. If you are in arrears call the utility and verify if necessary but… Tip: Understand that hydro companies do not do business this way.
  7. Finance Scam: There are any number of scammers trolling for victims. Remember what the lady in the blue pant-suit on TV says, that there’s no such thing as a risk free sure thing! Tip: Do not fall for investments that offer no risk or guarantee returns.
  8. Sales Scam: I regularly get a call from some alluring robot telling me I’ve won an opportunity with WestJet. Bullfeathers! If it’s a robo-call, hang up. You can‘t hurt a machine’s feelings, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true. Tip: Do not follow through with robocall prompts.
  9. Big Data Scam: Big Box stores have fallen victim to data breach jeopardizing credit and debit card information for millions of consumers. Tip: Change your passwords frequently.
  10. Ad Scam: Most of us seek online reviews before spending or money or making that reservation. Remember, anyone can post anything on the internet, and most reviews are not vetted. A Harvard study found 20% of those reviews are fake. Tip: While reviews can be helpful, take them with a grain of salt and learn how to spot the fakes.

Following the presentations, Cst. Raj Kumar of the RCMP Economic Crime Unit, also offered that many people in our diverse cultural population prefer to deal in cash. He pointed out that there are inherent risks in doing this.

“First, if you’re transacting funds,” Kumar said, use a cheque. It’s traceable where cash is not. Also once cash leaves Canada, the police no longer have any jurisdiction and there’s little that can be done.”

He suggested that where language is a problem, younger family members might be useful in ensuring that agreements and commitments are properly constructed and worded. Never-the-less, he said that if anyone has a concern, ask the police. They will be glad to help, even if it isn’t a criminal matter.

For more information search Surrey RCMP Fraud Prevention, www.bbb.org/mbc