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Scam alert: warning signs to watch for

  • 3.5 min read

This is the first in a two-part series on fraudulent phone calls, email and text messages attempting to garnish personal information and money from Canadian citizens, including farmers. This week looks at the growing trend of the schemes, and next week, we will look into tips on verifying the sender or caller and how FCC protects its customers' information.

It is vital for citizens to know the warning signs of fraudulent communications.

The recent increase in attacks on Canadians' confidential information from fraudsters pretending to be from various federal government departments is not a new scam, however, its evolution has resulted in lost savings and income, as well as confidential information, for some Canadian residents.

The scam consists of Canadian residents receiving phone calls from what appears to be federal government departments. In some cases, the Canadians receive an automated message saying they’re in trouble with the government and are prompted to clear up the matter by pressing a number on their phone keypad to continue. The call is then forwarded, or Canadians told to wait for a callback.

The subsequent phone call from someone pretending to be an official would demand money, and often include demands for personal information and instructions on how to deliver the funds.

While arrests made in connection to this fraud scheme were made earlier this week, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, it is still vital for citizens to know the warning signs of fraudulent communication, whether it be email, call or text.

Farmer protection

Jennifer Hogan is a senior security analyst within the IT division of FCC.

She says there are several signs Canadian farmers can keep an eye and ear out for if they receive a call demanding funds.

"Is the caller talking quickly? Are they trying to get the person on the other end confused? Are they asking for personal information? Financial information?" Hogan says.

The same goes for emails. Hogan says there are questions people should ask:

  • Does the email make sense? 
  • Is the request within the character of the sender? 
  • Is this how you normally communicate with this sender? 
  • Do you feel uncomfortable or pressured by the email?
  • Is this an unexpected email with a link or attachment?
  • Is there bad grammar? 
  • Is there a request in the email asking for personal, financial or login credentials or information?

Phone scams

Jeff Thomson is a senior RCMP Intelligence Officer currently managing the fraud prevention and intake unit at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. 

He says this latest evolution of the scam, which has been around since at least 2014 when people started to pretend to be the Canadian Revenue Agency, has some very similar characteristics. 

"It's an automated call claiming to be a government department or a legitimate institution, like a bank or a hydro company," Thompson says. He adds the call is usually done in a very alarming fashion.

"It will say that the person has been implicated in fraud and needs to push 'one' right away because they need to talk." 

No legitimate institution does that, Thompson says. 

If the call proceeds to a live person, the voice may claim to be an official agent, he says, adding the tone is “very authoritative, coercive, extorting you into following their demands and requests." 

Thomson says the scammers scare people and force Canadian residents into whatever they’re asking for, whether it is personal information or cash. 

Another red flag, Thomson points out, is a request for cash to be made in the form of a gift card, iTunes or Google Play card or bitcoin, sending Canadian citizens to a bitcoin bank machine. 

No legitimate institution will do that, Thompson states. 

Hogan says FCC would never send an email, text or call asking for money or unsolicited personal or banking information, or account passwords. She says no one should provide this information to any request made of them via email, text, or a phone call not initiated by the Canadian citizen themselves.

If you’ve received a suspicious phone call, text or email, report it to the local RCMP detachment. If it is specifically from FCC, you’re urged to contact the Customer Service Line at 1-888-332-3301.

Bottom line

Long-standing phone and email scams trying to gather personal information and money from Canadian citizens come with some indications of scheming. Fraud experts offer several tips, such as knowing who would call for such information, to protect Canadian citizens.

Article by: Craig Lester