Cyber Week

OK, let’s be clear on this from the get-go: there is no shame in falling for a scam.

Fraudsters are cunning and clever, which is why so many people get sucked in.

So, if you’ve ever been the victim of a scam, don’t be too hard on yourself.

The fact that Competition Bureau Canada’s “Little Black Book of Scams” is in its second edition and available in seven languages should tell you how prevalent scams are and how ingenious the scammers. From the old inheritance scams that notify you by email that you have been named benefactor of some wealthy stranger on his deathbed to the online dating schemes that manipulate and threaten blackmail, there are myriad ways to part good folk from their money.

Even the toll-free number for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501) has been spoofed by people pretending to be representatives of that organization, so you can see how bold the scammers have become.

Now, thanks to technology, scammers have new tricks of the trade.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is warning of a new phone scam where a caller — masking the originating phone number of the call as if it were coming from a legitimate federal government department landline — tells the person who answers the phone that their Social Insurance Number may have been compromised. The person is asked to relay their SIN to the caller to confirm it. Sometimes the scammers make the calls in the wake of real privacy breaches and emphasize the dangers to victims. But when the person provides their SIN, they open themselves up to identity theft.

More and more, fraudsters are using technology to spoof legitimate phone numbers, so don’t just assume that the number on your screen or call display is legit. Before providing any identifying information whatsoever, take down the number and call it back to see if that’s where the call actually originated.

Even the toll-free number for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501) has been spoofed by people pretending to be representatives of that organization, so you can see how bold the scammers have become.

Legitimate authorities would never call and ask you for your SIN, your credit card number, date of birth or any other identifying information. When in doubt, end the call and attempt to verify if it was legitimate. Don’t return calls to phone numbers you don’t recognize when no message has been left, and don’t click on links in email messages from addresses you don’t know.

It’s tough to be cynical and suspicious if you’re not by nature, but we all need to carry around a healthy level of doubt.

Fortunately, some scammers get caught and a judge gets to make the call.

Just last month in Tampa, Fla., a man was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in a federal prison and ordered to pay more than US$4 million in restitution for his part in a complex network of schemes including some that defrauded elderly widows and divorcées of their retirement savings.

Scammer, meet slammer.


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