‘Spot the Scammer’ – Part 2

Post by Det/Sgt. Dave Kozicki, Fraud/Economic Crimes Unit

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When you aren’t sure about a ‘deal’ you’ve been offered, use the tried and tested game show method and ask a friend. It could be a family member, friend or co-worker. Pick someone who isn’t tied up in the excitement of the deal. They will often have a fresh and untainted view of the situation and can quickly notice the ‘spell’ you are under. They haven’t been subjected to the talents of the fraud artist and can see things more clearly than you. Once you get that sober and subjective advice from your friend not to do it, simply don’t do it. Think about what it will feel like when your friend smugly reminds you that they ‘told you so.’

A common tactic for the online sale of a car purports that the seller is overseas and simply wants to ‘get rid’ of their car. Here is a real example; a half-ton truck is online, loaded with options, has low kilometers, is only two years old and the asking price is far below market value. The seller tells you they bought the vehicle in the U.S, moved to Europe and found the truck can’t be licensed because of local crash or emission standards.  They just want to end their headaches by selling the truck quickly. Unfortunately, they can’t be contacted directly because they are employed in military intelligence.

The themes are; a good deal, a quick sale and secrecy. It is a great truck and if you don’t buy it [right now!], someone else will. You are feeling pressure. What will protect you is that feeling of pressure; as long as you learn to associate that feeling with the idea that something might be wrong.

Another scam involves the cashing of cheques. You will be asked to cash a cheque and then send someone a portion of the cheque’s total. Usually the money you are tasked to send involves a money transfer service. After you do it the cheque bounces, the money you sent can’t be recovered and you owe the bank for the entire amount. This scam is dressed up with a phony job offer or the purchase of something you are selling on-line. The whole thing is convoluted and far from the ordinary (and I bet they ‘purchased’ what you were selling at full price). When it became ‘convoluted’ and ‘out of the ordinary’, you should have walked away.

Online auction and classified sites, money transfer services, insurance and other government websites have plenty of advice that you can easily access. Protect yourself by doing some research. It’s better than losing your money because chances are once that money is gone, it’s gone forever. The advice that isn’t always in these websites is to trust your instinct, take your time and talk to someone. Fraud is a growing crime because of the advances in communication technologies and ease with which someone outside your local and national law enforcement agencies can avoid repercussions. What we are all left with is the responsibility and necessity to protect ourselves;

  • You don’t have to act now
  • Talk to a friend
  • Trust your instinct
  • Verify and do your own research

Another thing about debit and credit cards: to protect yourself from someone accessing your funds, keep a close watch on your transactions. Report suspicious transactions to your service providers; maybe it’s a purchase you forgot about but maybe it is an unauthorized purchase. They will be happy to help you so they can avoid a loss as well. Not all fraudulent purchases drain your accounts; they often take out small amounts over long periods of time.

One more way to protect yourself is to do occasional checks on your credit. TransUnion Canada and Equifax are required to provide free credit reports to you by mail. This allows you to see if someone has obtained credit using your identity.

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