Fraudsters have duped victims out of thousands of dollars. It is almost becoming an industry in itself. Heed the police warning to the public of potential scams. March is Fraud Prevention Month that the police have launched an annual campaign that seeks to help you recognize, reject and report fraud.
The Better Business Bureau estimated Canadians lost more than $90 million to scams, and that estimate was made 3 years ago. Therefore the Ottawa police fraud unit has offered some tips on what to do for those who cross paths with scammers.
THE CRA SCAM
The scam: A caller supposedly from Canada Revenue Agency says you are late paying your taxes and police officers will be coming to your house to arrest you — at any minute — if you don’t pay immediately. They demand payment in different forms, such as direct bank deposit, prepaid gift cards, iTunes cards and Bitcoin.

What to do: “Hang up and take a sober second thought. You are in the safety of your home, there’s no one knocking at the door … You don’t have to be reactive,” Burns says. “The police just can’t come and knock your door down. We just can’t, but people don’t know that. So, if you get a phone call from the CRA, saying they are going to come and arrest you, you can almost guarantee that that’s fraud. It doesn’t happen.”
THE JOB SCAM
The scam: You reply to an online classified job advertisement and the person “hiring” says they need to send you a cheque in their name to be deposited into your account. Once you deposit the cheque, which is illegal, they ask you to transfer a smaller amount back to them, usually by money or email transfer. This is typically only possible if the bank doesn’t put holds on your cheques. A few days later, the cheque comes back as stolen, fraudulent or counterfeit.

What to do: “We will take the report, but the bank will not reimburse people for those kinds of things because you have essentially breached your contract with the bank,” Burns says. “You are not allowed to deposit cheques from other people through your account like that. That’s money laundering. You can’t do that.”

ONLINE LOANS
The scam: What police call “spammy websites” may tell applicants who can’t get loans from banks that they will be lent $10,000 as long as they first put down security deposits of $1,000, for example, but the loans never happen and the victims never see their money again.
What to do: “Often the money goes out of the country, so there is no way for the police to follow up on it,” Ritchie says. “You call the police, we look at the evidence in every case and evaluate, but 90 per cent of the time we find that this money is going right out of the country.”

IDENTITY THEFT
The scam: An individual’s identity is used to take out some form of credit. The scammer will generally use a person’s name, date of birth, address and Social Insurance Number to open bank accounts, apply for credits cards or order cellphones.

What to do: “It’s really important to contact the credit bureaus to find out what credit has been taken out in your name,” Ritchie says. “And then call each bank, each store, wherever the credit is taken out, and say that this was done fraudulently. The sooner you can call police, the better.”

PHISHING
The scam: The compromised online bank account. This usually starts with a phishing email, where it looks like it’s from your bank, saying there has been a problem with your account. You are asked to enter your bank card number and your online pin number. If that happens, the screen typically goes blank, meaning the fraudster has access to your online accounts.
What to do: “Call your bank right away,” Ritchie says. “They will freeze your accounts and usually, in those situations, the bank will reimburse people if they contact fast enough.”
In all cases of suspected fraud, call the Ottawa police fraud section at 613-236-1222 ext. 5433.
General Safety for your Protection:
• Arrange for direct deposit of any cheques you may regularly receive by mail.
• Never provide personal information such as account or credit card numbers over the phone or computer.
• When using any of your cards, protect your PIN.
• Keep a close watch on incoming bank and credit card statements.
• Give only to charities you know and trust.
• Never rush into something involving your money or property.
• Always check out offers with friends and family first.
• Always get a few estimates.
• Be wary of “something for nothing” or “get rich quick” schemes.
• Never turn over large sums of money to anybody, especially a stranger, no matter how promising the deal looks.
• If pressured by a salesperson, refuse to be bullied and say “No Thanks” – walk away, close the door, hang up the phone, etc. – It’s Your Right!
• Do not hesitate to check the credentials of a salesperson or public official.
• Only sign contracts or cheques after you’ve read them and you’re certain it’s for a legitimate reason.
• If in doubt, check with a friend, lawyer, accountant or the police.
• Report suspicious offers or activities to the police immediately.
• If you don’t already own one – invest in a shredder to dispose of old documents that you no longer need.
• Protect your banking information
• Choose your Power of Attorney (POA) wisely and be aware that you can change your Power of Attorney at any time
• Be aware that the moment your Continuing Power of Attorney for Property document is signed and witnessed by two people, the person being given POA status has immediate control over all of your assets, bank accounts and property. Adding a triggering clause to the “Conditions and Restrictions” area of your POA document will limit this access and ensure that it is used only at a time that YOU choose is right for you (for instance when, where, by whom and under what circumstances should the POA document be used/invoked)
• Consider a joint Power of Attorney (naming two people to share the responsibility). This minimizes the temptation and increases accountability at the same time
Report Fraud Online
Please note that the Ottawa Police Service does NOT accept reports by e-mail.

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