Recognizing fraud is the key to prevent being victimized

March is Fraud Prevention month and Lethbridge Police are reminding residents to be aware of common scams and recognize red flags to help prevent being victimized.

Fraud is a multi-billion dollar industry in North America and can cause extreme victimization to individuals, families and businesses but education and awareness are the best tools to prevent it.

Locally, Lethbridge Police investigate many cases of credit card fraud, identity theft, counterfeit currency and trending scams including the CRA scam, romance scams, CEO fraud and advance payment fraud. In 2017 LPS received 580 fraud reports, up just slightly from 534 in 2016.

  • Credit card fraud,  particularly tap fraud and card not present fraud, cost VISA, MasterCard and Amex $939.3 million in Canada in 2016. Tap technology has led to an increase in cases of credit fraud locally and across the country.

  • Romance scams accounted for nearly $220 million in losses in Canada in 2016 and are committed online by fraudsters who befriend people on dating sites, then trick them into sending money for a host of reasons such medical and family emergencies. The fraudster will never actually meet the victim.

  • CRA tax scams involve victims receiving a phone call, e-mail or text from the fraudster asking for money owed in back-taxes. The fraudster will usually threaten jail time, fines and that the police will be at your door in moments to arrest you. They will also ask that you make payment back in gift cards or iTunes cards. This scam costs Canadians of millions of dollars every year. The CRA will never ask for repayment of back taxes in these ways, nor will they threaten jail time or fines. If you are suspicious, contact the CRA directly for information prior to sending any money.

  • Other scams that are prevalent locally include winning a lottery, such as Stars, being hired as a “Secret Shopper” and phishing e-mails to obtain banking and other account or personal information.

  • Police have seen a rise in vehicles purchased fraudulently from car dealerships, both in Lethbridge and across Alberta. In these cases, fraudsters will purchase the vehicle either online or in person, using someone else’s identity. They will often secure loans from a bank and in most cases, the dealership is unaware of the fraud until police stop the vehicle later, or receive information that the vehicle might have been stolen. Car dealerships should ensure they protect themselves from fraud by confirming the identity of any prospective customers. Ask for several pieces of identification and when in doubt, don’t complete the sale until you can ensure the identity of the customer. 

  • Business E-mail Compromise (BEC) fraud also known as CEO fraud consists of phishing emails and has become a major problem in Canada and worldwide. According to the FBI, $2.3 billion has been lost from 17,642 victims in at least 79 countries between October 2013 and February 2016. A typical BEC scam will persuade an employee of a company to wire transfer money to an account. Sometimes the scam will include an invoice, or an e-mail from the CEO or other high-ranking member of the company, asking that the money be paid or sent. The unsuspecting employee will send the money on the direction of the CEO, only to discover later that the company has been defrauded the money. Locally, LPS has investigated several BEC incidents and in each case the businesses were defrauded large sums of money.

Recognizing fraud is the first step in the fight against victimization. Fraudsters are sophisticated and use creative and complex ways to scam money out of possible victims so it’s important to always be vigilant. Whether you are contacted online, in-person or over the phone, it’s imperative to take steps to verify who you are dealing with.

  • If you receive suspicious emails, delete them.

  • If you are unsure of the legitimacy of a telephone call, or feel harassed or threatened –  even if the caller sounds official –  hang up.

  • If you receive something suspicious in the mail asking you for personal information, throw it away.

  • Above all DO NOT forward money or personal information to anyone, unless you are certain of the legitimacy of the recipient.

  • Protect your information, protect your money and protect your identity.

  • Ensure your mail is not in a place that could be easily seen and stolen.

  • Conduct regular Equifax and Trans Union checks on yourself to ensure no one has stolen your identity and taken credit out in your name.

  • Shred and destroy all personal documents and information prior to discarding it.

  • Report all instances of fraud to police