March is Fraud Awareness Month, and RCMP and police services across the country continue their efforts to educate people on protecting themselves from telephone and online scammers.
In the first months of 2014, Red Deerians have been approached by scammers who offer romance, pretend to be police, tell tales of family members in emergency situations, or announce that their potential victim has won a prize.
“Fraudsters are creative. Every time we report on a current scam being perpetuated, they come up with a new one,” said Cpl. Sarah Knelsen of Red Deer City RCMP. “It’s really important that people educate themselves on the behaviours and responses that scammers prey on, and teach themselves to respond differently to pressure applied by strangers wanting money, regardless of the specifics of the situation.”
Whatever story scammers are spinning, they’re hoping potential victims will observe basic ‘rules’ of human interaction – rules that scammers will exploit. Scammers rely on their targets’ good manners, that they won’t hang up or will remain polite, even when scammers become aggressive. Scammers rely on many people’s reluctance to ask aggressive questions, and will prey on people’s emotions and fears about loved ones. And scammers usually insist on immediate action.
“It’s natural for people to feel they have to respond immediately when someone is applying pressure, but it’s important to train yourself to stop, think it through, demand more time and ask more questions,” said Knelsen. “Scammers also hope that their targets’ emotional response – whether to a romantic gesture or to being told a loved one is in danger – will override their normal ability to ask questions.”
Some scammers use the names of real charities or organizations. RCMP advise people to ask for verification names, phone numbers and other business information. Then don’t call back to a number given to you by the original caller – look up the organization in the phone book or online and contact them through their usual channels. Ask if they are legitimately making calls in your area and ask to speak to the people whose names you were given.
RCMP offer the following suggestions to avoid becoming a victim of a scam or fraud:
• Do not give out personal information, over the phone or otherwise, unless you were the one to initiate contact and it is an organization you trust.
• Ask for written information about the person, business or charity. Ask for identification and registered charity numbers. Confirm the validity of the information you are given by looking up their phone number and website yourself rather than using the information they offer you.
• Do not send any money or pay a fee to claim a prize.
• Be suspicious if this is a ‘today only’ offer. If it is truly a legitimate deal, it will be there tomorrow.
• Be wary of appeals that tug at your heartstrings, especially pleas involving current events.
• Treat your personal information with care, do not leave it lying around for others to take.
• Shred old bills, statements, credit cards, etc.
• Rely on established businesses or individuals, whose reliability and credibility can be established through a professional organization such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the Chamber of Commerce.
Anyone who has lost money but suspect you have been targeted, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or report online at www.antifraudcentre.ca.
Anyone who has a suspicious email soliciting financial information should advise the bank or agency involved.
Those who are a victim of fraud, contact the Red Deer RCMP at 403-343-5575 or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. Reports can also be made online at www.antifraudcentre.ca.
For more information, visit the Scams and Fraud section of the RCMP web site at www.rcmp-grc.ab.ca.