Post by Det/Sgt. Dave Kozicki, Fraud/Economic Crimes Unit
Good advice is often contradictory. Rule #1 to avoid a fraud is: ‘If it’s too good to be true it probably is.’ This is great information but what about getting a good deal? Sometimes you really can get a good deal. The trick then is to avoid the fraud but get the good deal. This apparent contradiction and the uncertainty it creates results in people continually being ‘ripped off’ even when they know rule #1.
Like most other things in life, the truth is found in the gray – not the black and white. There are some obvious things to look for like random phone calls and emails telling you that you just won millions of dollars, or your computer is malfunctioning and they need access, or your bank account information needs to be updated. The way to avoid these scams is to first be suspicious and then be willing to verify the claims being made. For example, you get a call from someone who says they’re with your bank and there is some sort of problem. Maybe they are legitimate and maybe they aren’t. Get the person’s name and tell them you will verify matters by phoning the bank yourself. Chances are the fraud will die a quick death right there.
Black and white advice is to not to give your Social Insurance Number to anyone you don’t work for, don’t give your credit card number to anyone who contacts you ‘out of the blue’ and don’t divulge personal information involving unsolicited contact over the phone or internet. This advice is easy to give but in reality, sometimes you aren’t sure what to do. Your world is gray.
One of the fraud artist’s talents is to convince you to make a move when you aren’t sure. That is why they are described as performing an “art.” It is often a subjective, psychological and instinctive game they play with you. This is evident when a victim later admits they had misgivings very early on in their interaction with the “artist” but still went through with it. Right now, while you are reading this you can put this information into your brain and perhaps avoid a fraud in the future. Instead of learning from your own mistake, which is often very costly, learn from someone else’s mistake. Rule #1 therefore (in the gray world) is that if you think you may be getting scammed; put on the brakes, now! Say, “hold on, I feel uncomfortable with where this is going.” Start asking questions and demand some verification or go get it yourself. Maybe we are too polite, maybe we are too trusting. Maybe we are subject to pressure and feel we have to do something right now. The truth is that you can be polite but firm, and know that very little in life has to be decided right now. If a “great” deal comes with the condition that ‘you must act now’, be suspicious. It is the hallmark of someone trying to make you decide before you think. The safest deals are the one where the salesman says the deal will still be available tomorrow.