I was relaxing one morning with the sense of well-being that a great breakfast brings. For the curious, it was a Spanish omelette with multi-grain toast and hand-cut, double-smoked bacon.
Then my cellphone rang, showing a local number. I answered, only to hear a robotic-sounding voice from someone claiming to be from the Canadian Border Services Agency.
Apparently, my package (?) from the United States had been seized because it contains contraband and a warrant has been issued for my arrest. I know it’s not drugs as the US Border Patrol would have found something like that. Oh, yeah, the guy said something about electronics. Did an old friend send me a taser?
I hung up and called the CBSA. After reaching an agent, I explained that I had received a call about a package. The agent started laughing.
“You didn’t mention the warrant and request for money,” he said with a smile so wide I could feel it over the phone. “We get hundreds of these calls every day.”
The CBSA agent informed me that this was one only of the latest phone scams, then he congratulated me on being smart enough to check it out.
Similar scams involve the Canadian Revenue Agency, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and the Student Emergency Benefit. People who call you claiming to represent these organizations say you owe money because of an overpayment. Then they threaten you, saying that unless you immediately repay a specified sum, you can expect an imminent visit from the police.
Other scams are a little more old school, and arrive by snail mail. Most of them these days however involve cellphones, emails, texting and social media. In all cases, check it out rather than blindly paying for a scammer’s nice life. A simple phone call will usually clear things up.
In West Vancouver recently, a scam victim and their partner a received a phone call from a person claiming to be a police officer investigating fraudulent activity on their debit card. They were soon convinced that their money was not safe at their bank, and transferred a half million dollars to what they believed was another bank.
Only later did their growing suspicions lead them to contact police, who told them to immediately call their bank. But too late. This couple’s life savings were long gone.
Beware of subscription traps. These offer a credit card with free or low-cost trials, for goods and/or services. You then find yourself locked into monthly payments that are next to impossible to stop.
If it sounds too good to be true it usually isn’t.
Identity theft involves inducing you to give out personal information that is then used to steal your identity. The personal information is used to take out loans and get credit cards in your name. You are left with the bills.
Never give out personal information over the phone, in emails or in regular mail. Shred any personal information before putting it in the garbage.
CEO scams are becoming more common. This is when a realistic email is sent to a company employee with access to money. The email realistically request a money transfer to a third party in order to obtain a contract, complete a confidential transaction, or update a supplier’s payment information. Check with your boss or simply delete it. Business doesn’t work this way.
Grandparents and parents are targeted by saying their children are in trouble and need money. It could be anything from car trouble, a fine they supposedly received while travelling outside the country, or because they need to get home.
Expect the scammers to go into overdrive as the holidays approach. You might not be helping to feed a hungry child or other acts of kindness that we all feel during the holidays. Investigate who wants your money. A call to the police will usually clear things up.
To report a scam, go to: www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/new-cybercrime-and-fraud-reporting-system. Or www.antifraudcentre.ca (1-888-495-8501) and www.competitionbureau.gc.ca (1-800-348-5358).
And if you could help me out by sending money so I can buy some expensive medicine to save my sick son’s life, I would really appreciate it. My email is…