By Jaxon McGinn
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
Sunny South News
A lack of knowledge and aggressive tactics can leave Canadians and their money vulnerable, according to a southern Alberta Police officer.
Last week, the Better Business Bureau released their annual list of the top 10 scams affecting Canadians.
Romance scams topped the list, followed by income tax scams and scams surrounding online purchases.
In 2020-21, more than 46,000 scams were published on BBB Scam Tracker, a 24.9 per cent increase over the number reported in 2019. These reports were filed by a cross-section of the population, including business owners and consumers across North America
In recent years, one of the most common scams in southern Alberta is scammers impersonating the Canada Revenue Agency.
“It was quite unnerving,” said Carmen Toth, who received a call from scammers impersonating the CRA three years ago. “I was calm at first, so they started to get more aggressive.”
Toth said she played along with the scammers until she knew that it was a hoax.
“They wanted me to deposit $2,500 at the Mac’s store in Fort Macleod… you don’t take income tax payments to a Mac’s store.”
Although Toth didn’t fall for the scam, she said she understands how others could get sucked into the ploy.
“If they can get you excited, you could start doing things you wouldn’t normally do,” she remarked.
Toth’s most extensive advice to anyone at risk of a scam: think critically and stay calm.
“If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.”
Scammers target their victims at random, which means anyone could be at risk of receiving the same phone call as Toth.
“We do see seniors and new Canadians as our most vulnerable groups, but even young, tech-savvy people fall for it, too,” said Sgt. Paolo Magliocco, Economic Crimes Unit officer at the Lethbridge Police Service.
Magliocco added a scam’s success lies more in the artist’s skills than the victim. Most scams are one-size-fits-all; however, seniors find themselves victims of targeted attacks.
“The ‘grandparents’ scam (is common),” explained Magliocco. “Scammers impersonate grandchildren of the victims, telling them they were in a car accident or other event and need money.”
Magliocco added, scammers are almost always located outside of Canada.
“The majority of these scams are coming out of third-world countries that Canada doesn’t have a good political relationship with. It creates an almost impossible task for Canadian authorities to go after these people.”
Though police services across Canada do their best to inform the public of potential scams, they may still return in a few years after fading away.
“The Nigerian prince one has been recycled,” said Magliocco. “We think we’ve done a pretty good job of informing the public about that one, but it may come back in two or three years.”
Toth agrees with Magliocco that being informed is the best way to defend yourself against potential scams.
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