7 minute read

Don’t Get Scammed!

By Jill Tham with Constable Philip Gavin, Niagara Regional Police

victim’s home. Once the money is collected, the scammer is usually never seen again. This is particularly heinous in that it plays on the love and goodwill of a grandparent for a family member.

Are there any programs in place to support seniors?

Fraud and scams can be frustrating, embarrassing and a financial burden to those they affect. One way to avoid the pain and agony is educate yourself on the current scams happening around the Niagara Region. Constable Phillip Gavin of the Niagara Regional Police Services reviews key things to watch for when identifying scams and ways to prevent becoming a victim. Gavin also points out some resources and programs in place by the Niagara Regional Police Services to assist members of the community.

What are some of the current scams that individuals need to be aware of?

Gavin: Criminal scammers are known to use certain scams repeatedly until the community becomes more aware of the scam and their ability to defraud the public becomes harder. Scammers will then often move onto a new technique or one that they haven’t used in a while.

One scam that the province of Ontario and other parts of Canada have seen frequently is called the Grandparents Scam. This scam has seen many vulnerable people in our community lose thousands of dollars. During the Grandparent Scam, an unknown scammer will call a vulnerable member of our community and portray themselves to be a lawyer or police officer, stating that a member of their family is in legal peril. The victim is then told the only way for their loved one to get out of jail is by the victim paying large amounts of money for “legal fees”. The scammer demands payment in cash or often gift certificates. In many cases, a criminal courier is sent to the

Gavin: The Niagara Regional Police Service had developed education and awareness programs to help fight the Grandparent Scam. We have been using the campaign hash tag #NRPMePlus3. The hope is that it will encourage a member of the public to seek official information (NRP) and educate themselves about scam (Me). We then ask the public to create awareness and education in three people they care for (Plus3).

We also created the Point of Sale Scam Intervention Program (POSSIP). This program was developed to create scam awareness and education in retail and financial institution employees. This is a downloaded education program where employees learn to recognize and intervene in the scam. We have further arranged to have officers attend financial institutions in Niagara to meet with employees directly to discuss scam prevention and intervention.

Going into the summer months, what should visitors and local community members consider?

Gavin: The Niagara Region is a wonderful place to visit and enjoy the many things that it has to offer. Like in any community, members of the public should remain vigilant to their surroundings and make good safe decisions. Trusting one’s intuition is always a good first step. If something sounds too good to be true, it may just be.

What should local community members be aware of when purchasing tickets and attending events?

If a member of the public has plans to attend a concert or large events, purchasing tickets through the official sources of the event is important. It prevents price gouging and reduces risk from dealing with unknown people.

Recent news reports have discussed impersonating an internet or phone carrier repair person. When at home how can individuals protect themselves?

Gavin: We should always be cautious before allowing anyone unknown into our homes. Unsolicited or unannounced visits to your home by repair persons should raise your vigilance. It is your home. You do not need to invite anyone in. Your safety is paramount. Asking for identification and following up with the company is also acceptable. If you are still suspicious, contacting your local police can also help.

There is no rush to complete a transaction at the door. Request paperwork including a business card and take the time to do independent research on your own. This includes internet searches for previous clients, internet reviews of their work and business practises. Asking for references is also a good practice.

What types of protection can individuals do around the home?

Gavin: Protection around your home can include installing signs such as “no soliciting” and video cameras to cover the entrance and driveway of your property. A simple security measure that every home has is speaking through a partially closed or closed door. Opening the door and allowing someone into your home takes away your security and makes it harder to get them to leave when you no longer wish to hear what they have to say.

Distraction theft has been in the news and on social media. What should community members be aware of?

Gavin: Distraction thefts often occur in public places, such as parking lots. The victim is followed by the suspect and their criminal partners. They work together to distract the victim so that valuables can be removed often from their car without their knowledge. We have seen suspects follow victims in stores and watch as they enter their PIN number at the point of sale. Suspects will then follow them to the car and steal their purse or the credit card. The suspects then try to complete as many transactions on the card as possible before it is cancelled by the financial institution. In these cases, one of the best forms of protection is to be vigilant with blocking the view, when entering your pin number at the point of sale.

What should parents be aware of and how can they protect their children when using social media?

Gavin: Communication and education is one of the key elements when it comes to protecting children as it relates to the Internet and social media. It is important that parents know what their children are accessing on the Internet. This can be managed by periodic checks of the phone or devices installed by the parent. There are lots of great educational tools when it comes to Internet safety, please check the Niagara Region police website.

Are there any current telephone scams to be aware of? Email? Text?

Gavin: There are numerous scams that cycle through on a regular basis. Unfortunately, many people’s phones are often hit with random text messages and emails that contains suspicious scam links. Clicking on these links leave your devices vulnerable to further cyber attack. In other cases, the scammer is hoping you will click on the link to make connections with a live person, so they can defraud you of your valuables.

How can individuals report fraud?

Gavin: If an individual has been a victim of fraud, and has had a financial loss, they should contact their local police to report it (905-688-4111). If a member of the public receives a scam email or text, they can report it at the Canadian AntiFraud Center.

What are some barriers people face when deciding to report?

Gavin: We believe that many frauds go unreported. Victims have reported that they feel embarrassed or ashamed that they fell victim to the fraud. It is important that people receive support so that victims can receive the assistance they need.