With the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre noting there were 41,111 victims to fraud in 2023, fraudsters and scammers can get creative in fashioning a scenario that can manipulate unsuspecting individuals into forwarding over their hard-earned cash.

Often, those instances create a sense of urgency or panic, or may pull on the heartstrings of their victims.

In a way to help local individuals – including seniors – prevent falling victim to frauds and scams, the Essex County OPP hosted an open house at the Harrow Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion last Friday morning, providing information on how residents can recognize a scam, potentially prevent becoming a victim of one, and what to do if they happened to find themselves in such a situation.

OPP Community Services/Safety Officer, Constable Christopher Ciliska, hosted the event and was pleased to have an avenue to meet with some area residents on how they can best protect themselves from frauds and scams.

One of the messages he provided to those at the event was to always take the time to think it out and realize if what is being presented is what it seems, before responding to what might be a potential scam.

The four recommendations include hanging up on unknown incoming calls or recorded messages; keeping personal information private; if something seems suspicious, there is likely a good reason; and not clicking on links in unsolicited emails, texts, or on social media.

“It’s tough, because with technology nowadays, everything is advancing so fast and there’s so many different things coming at you,” Ciliska said. “We go over what to look for. All the time, it’s very similar. It’s very rushed or panicky. They try to get you off balance and use your emotions against you a little bit.”

It can be too late before realizing the situation was not indeed real.

The big scams going around currently are the emergency or grandparent scam, and the romance scam, Ciliska said.

In the romance scam, it could mimic somewhat of a long-distance, online relationship, where the other individual may always conveniently not be able to meet, providing a list of reasons why that may be.

They keep up this distant relationship, and eventually they start requesting money, Ciliska explained. This can take place over a longer period of time, where the individual takes the opportunity to lure their victim in and eventually start requesting even small amounts of money to help them in a certain situation.

In the grandparent or emergency scam, scammers may try to convince the person they are contacting that their loved one is in trouble and money needs to be sent to fix the issue.

He also spoke of the Canada Revenue scams that go around via phone, text, or email. It is advised to never call or click on any thing that comes your way, Ciliska said. Call the Canada Revenue Agency directly if there is a concern, but do not use the phone number provided by the correspondence. 

Information from a fraudster can contain a false number. Look it up through a trusted source and find a legit number, then follow through to find out if Canada Revenue was indeed trying to contact you.

The number of fraud and scam instances continue to increase, Ciliska said. And they are still being underreported.

That underreporting is often due to embarrassment, he noted.

“Everybody is embarrassed it happened to them, but it’s happening to everybody. By reporting what’s happening to you to the Anti-Fraud Center also gets information out to other people, and hopefully prevents other people from making the same mistakes,” he said.

With technology always evolving, and with the introduction of AI, there’s so much out there that can prey upon unsuspecting individuals.

“It is definitely a growing issue, and that is why we try to get as much info out there as we can,” Ciliska said. “It’s not embarrassing. It happens to all of us. The quicker we are notified of new things or ongoing things in our area, the quicker we can get that information out on social media and whatnot and advise people what’s going on.”

If anyone falls victim, or gets a suspicious phone call, email, or text, Ciliska encourages them to hang up if it’s on the phone and delete the messages, but get as much information as possible in regards to that incident and report it to the non-emergency OPP number and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center through antifraudcentre.ca or by phone by calling 1-888-495-8501.

Ciliska also urges individuals to never give out personal information to anyone.

“If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not true,” he noted of potential fraud or scams that may sound like the individual won money or may receive an inheritance from a distant relative.

 “The biggest thing is to take a moment and think,” he added. “And then refuse or reject it, hang up or delete, and then let us know.”

By Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 29, 2024 at 10:51

This item reprinted with permission from   Essex Free Press   Essex, Ontario

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