Scammers ‘love’ depth of pockets, not hearts

Whether by phone or email, fraudsters are out there ready to prey on their unwitting victims.

Whether by phone or email, fraudsters are out there ready to prey on their unwitting victims.

March is Fraud Prevention Month and agencies in Alberta are working to educate would-be victims of the different signs that there is attempt at fraud. Better Business Bureau of Central and Northern Alberta (BBB) is providing four typical scams during the month for people to read on; for March 4 to 11 romance scams are being highlighted.

Les Jaster, executive manager for the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce, said usually scams against loved ones require money quickly. “If it has to happen right away.”

This should be a sign for the victim that maybe they should make a few phone calls before acquiescing to the request.

“I’d make a phone call to be darn sure. And anytime you need to be wiring money somewhere that is a double red flag,” Jaster added. “It’s a very sketchy paper trail.”

Scammers will target singles of any age and will use social networking, classifieds and dating websites to get a victim. They will even create fake profiles and “fall in love” quickly with the goal of getting money from a victim.

Tips to prevent fraud

For businesses wanting to protect themselves and their clients Jaster has always used “know your client,” as a guide. A quick phone call to that client can help alleviate possible future complications. “Just confirm it.”

Chamber president Jim Hamilton uses an old saying as a guide. “If it appears too good to be true, it usually is. So do some homework.”

Scammers usually email or fax their victims claiming there is a lot of money awaiting them and all a person needs to do is supply some personal information; usually credit card number and social insurance numbers.

“People don’t give you something for nothing,” Hamilton advised.

Staff should be trained to monitor debit/credit pin pads to ensure there is no tampering. This helps protect consumers’ personal information and helps prevent stolen identities as well. Hamilton recommends victims contact their bank representative right away to see if there has been any suspicious activity on their accounts. “If the bank thinks it’s justified then call the RCMP.”

With the design of new Canadian currency vendors are also able to detect counterfeit bills easier. They are responsible for the fake money they receive and are not compensated for the loss.

“I understand why they (Royal Canadian Mint) did it…I think their logic behind it is very good,” added Hamilton.

Taking responsibility for a situation is important. “Do the due diligence yourself.”

Watch for the warning signs, suggests RCMP Const. Justin Auld. Victims often neglect to notice those signs and end up with lost money that is difficult to return.

Advertisements on Internet sites such as Kijiji can also cause issues. Auld used the example of someone advertising an apartment for rent in locations such as Fort McMurray. A person from Ponoka may not have time to travel and see the apartment and will pay a deposit on a property that does not exist.

He advises to meet with the seller. “If possible a public transaction, face to face is preferable.”

The BBB is offering tips on dealing with these other types of fraud:

• Counterfeit cards or skimming: Scammers use camouflaged card readers to take information of the magnetic stripe of debit and credit cards. They are able to use the information to make purchases or even cash.

• Identity theft: Imposters acquire a person’s private information to impersonate someone. They will use the information to acquire credit, merchandise or services or will take over a person’s existing account.

• Online investment fraud: Information from the Canadian Securities Administrators states individuals can make a realistic online investment company with little effort. Once money is given to these companies it is almost impossible to get back. More information on investment fraud can be found at www.securitiesadministrators.ca. Click on investor tools.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre also has information to help: http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/english/home.html.