Fraudsters ‘adapt quickly to global events’ like the pandemic
For every crisis, global event or disaster, there is a con artist ready to take advantage of it, and the COVID-19 pandemic was no different, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center.
“We haven’t seen anything yet that has really shocked or surprised us,” said Jeff Thomson, RCMP intelligence analyst at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center. “We know they adapt quickly to world events.”
Thomson said fraudsters were quickly out of the door after the pandemic was declared last year, profiting from fear and uncertainty as parts of the country began to shut down, people were made redundant and the money started to tighten.
Thomson said the crooks are opportunists who will use any means to defraud people.
Early last spring, there was a deluge of complaints from consumers affected by advance loan scams – which target people with difficulty accessing money or credit – followed quickly by a series of scams revolving around the Canadian Emergency Benefit and other relief measures.
All scams, whether they be emails, text messages or automated calls, have used the pandemic to attempt to compromise personal and financial information or to extort money from people already in existence. skin flower.
And it worked. Between March 6 of last year and the end of February 2021, nearly 12,000 Canadians reported 13,553 incidents of COVID-19-related fraud, costing them $ 7.2 million.
Thomson said the scams have continued throughout the pandemic and many have evolved as circumstances have changed.
Currently, many vaccine-related scams are circulating.
Some come as text messages or emails suggesting that the victim can be shortlisted for early immunizations if they donate a small amount, while other emails offer a ‘click here’ button to get vaccine information. One click releases malware – software designed to damage or gain unauthorized access – onto a smart device or computer.
Thomson said there are also delivery scams that claim to offer home vaccination kits or various types of personal protective equipment that are paid for but never arrive.
“It has been an interesting year to see how people have adjusted to life online and how they have started to be able to recognize frauds and scams,” he said. In response, scammers have taken their game to a new level by creating more compelling emails and texts, and creating websites that look legitimate.
Thomson said countless emails and texts have been sent that appear to be from the Government of Canada requesting personal information. He noted that federal departments and agencies do not solicit personal information in this way.
And while Thomson said there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to fraud, there has been a change in the level of aggression by fraudsters and the way they play on the emotions of victims.
“They take advantage of a sense of urgency, anxiety and fear that exists,” he said. “Before, it was deception and deception. Now that’s extortion – if you don’t act right away bad things are going to happen.
There have been several reports in the Capital Region of such aggressive scams, where the fraudster calls a victim and claims they will be jailed or deported if they don’t immediately pay a fine or pay a non-existent tax bill.
Thomson said another change over the past year has been the significant increase in identification fraud, which he associates with many relief programs offered to individuals by the federal government.
Last year, there were 16,000 reports of identity fraud in Canada, up from 9,000 in 2019.
During the pandemic, the Canada Revenue Agency says it has stepped up its efforts to fight fraud. The agency said the number of scams has grown exponentially and evolved to take advantage of each new relief program.
The CRA said that despite education and measures taken to fight fraud, every year scammers are able to acquire people’s personal information – such as social insurance numbers, dates of birth, etc. names – which they then use to try to defraud both individuals and the government.
The agency said it has put new safeguards in place over the past year, including asking claimants to call the CRA’s validation and protection department before receiving payments, and delaying the processing of certain CERB and CESB requests until the applicants have provided supporting documents to prove their identity.
By the end of the fall, over $ 100,000 had been lost due to the CRA scam and its variants in this region.
Thomson says Canadians who feel victimized should contact someone they trust or an official source for advice.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center says that if you suspect someone is using your social insurance number, you should contact Service Canada and have documentation proving the misuse of your number and an original identity document such as ‘a birth certificate.
Suspected fraud can be reported to local police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center at 1-888-495-8501.
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