#romancescams | Beware: Fraudsters look to take advantage with modern techniques | Pictou-County | Communities

Westville is a small town with about 3,600 residents and a relatively small police force, not unlike many other communities in Nova Scotia or Canada, for that matter.

The police officers there deal with traditional crime – thefts, fights, speeding vehicles. And like so many other police forces, have also had to learn how to deal with an ever evolving repertoire of online and phone scams.

So far this year alone Westville Police have had 40 cases of scams. It’s significant especially when you consider that according to estimates by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre only 5 per cent of victims of scams and fraud report it.

Thanks to education, most people who reported crimes in Westville were able to stop things before they lost money, but others have not been so fortunate, says Westville Police Chief Howie Dunbar. Some lost hundreds of dollars and one case his department is investigating this year was for $8,000 that was lost.

It’s an ongoing problem and one that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.

“The biggest one we’re dealing with right now are the threats over CRA,” Dunbar said.

With that scam, he said the victims are told that they owe money on their taxes to the Canada Revenue Agency and if they don’t pay, they’ll be going to jail.

The scare tactic they use, is a common technique. Other scams rely on manipulation. They try to force victims to make a rush decision or make them feel that they’re in on some secret.

Realizing that money can be tracked to bank accounts, some of these scammers have tricked their victims into buying everything from prepaid visas to iTunes cards.

And from a policing perspective it’s incredibly difficult to track down the perpetrators. When police have traced calls back it has led to places like India, Nigeria, Guatemala and Costa Rica.

“To launch an international investigation with Interpol over a few hundred dollars is not a reality with what goes on,” he said.

He said it is important that people do report when they’ve been the victim of a scam though to both their bank and police so they can at least stop the fraudsters from gaining access to any other money or information. When police know about common scams, they can also warn others.

“Nobody is immune to these things,” Dunbar said. “They prey on people. Especially people who are not technically astute.”

A great place to keep up to date on current frauds and scams, he said is Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre.ca

Here are some common scams that police have seen in recent years to be aware of:

Identity fraud

Identity thefts want your information. Often disguising themselves as a legitimate instiution, either over the phone or through email, they will try to get information they can then use to obtain credit cards using your identit.

“Never ever, ever give them your full name, date of birth, social insurance number and passwords for any reason whatsoever,” Dunbar said.

The damage that is done to a person’s credit rating by identity theft is hard to overcome.

Malware

This scam involves getting people to open an attachment which appears legitimate.

“When you do your computer is now infected with malware and they can go through your computer and find out what they want.”

With so much personal information kept on phones and computers, Dunbar said it can have a dramatic impact on someone.

The people doing this can use your contacts as well to spoof numbers and email addresses to fool other people.

Online purchase scam

Another common scam involves creating a fake ad for what appears to be a fantastic deal. People then send the money but the ad disappears.

“It doesn’t exist, but the money is gone forever,” Dunbar said.

This is fairly common as well on online classifieds, where people will ask for a deposit or money to be paid in advance to secure a car or even a puppy.

Another similar scam offers an unbelievably good deal for an apartment, but asks for rent or damage deposit. People send it only to find out the apartment doesn’t exist.

Romance scams

Fraudsters aren’t afraid to pull at people’s heart strings and often do it on dating sites or chats.

“There are people who are out there that are lonely and always looking for love,” Dunbar said. The fraudsters prey on that by building a superficial relationship and then asking for money.

“Without having met these people they send them money,” Dunbar said.

Cheque cashing

One scam offers people a cut on cash if the victims deposit a cheque. While it might seem fool proof, Dunbar said it’s again too good to be true.

“You cash it and you send three quarters of the money to them and you get to keep the 25 percent. But what happens is the cheque bounces,” Dunbar said.

Then the victims are stuck paying back the bank for the full amount.




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