Mass Marketing Scams Alert
The Calgary Police Service Economic Crimes Unit is alerting the public to a growing trend of mass marketing frauds.
The top three frauds that investigators are seeing involve loan scams, on-line rental scams, and immigration or Canada Revenue Agency scams.
Scammers operate on-line “loan companies” and may include appealing interest rates as low as three per cent. The victims are asked to pay an initial fee that can range from a few hundred dollars, to thousands. The most common advanced fee range is between $2,000 to $5,000, while the highest amount paid by a victim was $30,000. The fraudsters may also demand banking or personal information in addition to an advanced fee.
Culprits use phone numbers of 1-800 or 1-888 as well as telephone number spoofing devices that allow them to mimic local area codes.
The company names most often used by these groups are “Loan Shark Industries” or “Capital Finance.”
On-line Rental Scams
Offenders in these cases most often hijack legitimate rental properties advertised on local websites. When an interested renter contacts them to view the property, they will make excuses as to why the property can’t be seen in person. They often demand cash deposits before disappearing with the victim’s money.
Culprits of this scam will often seek out those attempting to find accommodations from outside of the province and will request the renter transfer the deposit through Canada Post Moneygram. Again, the money and the rental disappear.
Immigration/Canada Revenue Agency Scams
These types of scams are almost exclusively done via telephone calls to the victim’s home phone, however they have also occurred via email. During phone solicitations, the offenders demand to stay on the line with the victim, claiming they work for Canada Citizenship and Immigration, or the Canada Revenue Agency.
The culprits often make threats that un-paid fees, or taxes, will result in the victim going to jail or being deported if the fees are not paid. The victim is then directed to pay the purported fees through e-transfer, money wire transfer or the purchase of pre-paid gift cards, which they are directed to mail to a specific address.
Citizens can help protect themselves using the following practices:
- Do not feel pressure to respond to a request until you have a chance to verify the story.
- Never transfer money, or give out credit card or other financial information, until you can verify the person’s identity and the story, and determine whether it is legitimate.
- Ask for call back numbers in order to confirm the legitimacy of any call you receive.
- Don’t believe what you see. Business logos, websites and email addresses can easily be duplicated to look legitimate.
- Watch for poor grammar and spelling.
- Contact the business directly to legitimize the communication before you take any action. Search online to get contact information from an official source.
- Hover your mouse over links to check their true destination. If the URL doesn’t match the link, or seems suspicious, don’t click on it.
- Be wary of unexpected emails that contain links or attachments from unknown senders.
- Update your computer’s anti-virus software.
- Ignore calls for immediate action or messages that create a sense of urgency.
- Beware of Phishing emails posing as the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) requesting personal information, or links within an email re-directing to a fraudulent website that appears to represent the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CRA does not email Canadians and request personal information.
- Is the price realistic for the property, number of bedrooms, location and amenities provided? If the price is too good to be true, it likely is.
- Beware of landlords that say they are out of the country but require a deposit, or landlords and property managers that are unwilling to meet in person.
- Take steps to verify that the advertiser is the property manager or is authorized to rent the property.
- Never provide personal information such as SIN, bank account information or credit card numbers.
- Never submit a deposit without a careful inspection of the property or rental advertised.
- Ask the neighbours about the property owner and history of the property.
- Avoid cash deposits or payments as they are untraceable.