By Jenn Watt
Published May 31 2016
Your taxes are filed your bills are paid maybe you even have a return coming. Then you get the call: the Canada Revenue Agency is after you. You owe money and you need to pay up right away. In fact you’re so far behind the OPP is coming to get you.
That’s a call many people in the Haliburton area have been receiving lately and it’s enough to scare some into paying up.
The thing is it’s a scam.
Using aggressive tactics and fear of punishment telephone scam artists have found a new way to rip people off. A few years ago residents were getting calls about stranded grandkids alone and in trouble needing cash. Now we’re all being inundated by angry sounding accountants threatening incarceration unless you pay up.
Unfortunately just as we get the word out about one scam another one emerges.
And the con artists are getting more clever as time goes on.
Likely most of us are familiar with the “Windows” scam: a man calls saying he works for Windows and has noted something is wrong with your computer. He can fix it but you need to grant him remote access to your machine. He sounds official … and whose computer isn’t having difficulty some of the time?
CBC reported in 2015 that the Microsoft tech support scam was the most widespread in Canada with fraudsters once going so far as threatening death to the man on the other end of the line.
Another similar scam starts on your computer with a pop up window (a fraud) which claims there is a virus on your computer. To fix it you either click a button or call a specific number for help. On the other end of that number is yet another con artist.
Once the scammers gain access to the computer they will steal passwords or install malware. Sometimes they’ll charge a fee to clean a computer that has nothing wrong with it.
Knowing the specifics of the scam du jour is useful but only in the short term as new scams pop up every day.
Keeping tell-tale signs of scams in mind can help. These are some common signs according to the OPP:
Urgency: the scammer introduces a timeline or pushes the victim to make a decision quickly before he has a chance to think it through.
Fear: threats are leveled (in the case of the CRA scam) or the caller pretends to be scared (in the grandparent scam).
Secrecy: the person on the other end of the phone demands the offer or situation cannot be disclosed to other people – trusted family members especially.
Request for money transfer: typically scammers will want money sent through a company such as Money Gram Western Union or a bank.
It’s safe to say if someone is demanding you send them money over the phone you should be suspicious. The best defence against a phone scammer is to just hang up.
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a scam call the Haliburton Highlands OPP at 705-286-1431. You can also file a complaint with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at www.antifraudcentre.ca or by calling 1-888-495-8501.