The RCMP Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in North Bay says the incidence of computer scamming is on the rise across the country, including northeastern Ontario.
The centre blames the increased number of technological devices people have, and said complaints about computer scams are now the most common in the country, making up 80 per cent of the calls it receives.
"Some days we've had as many as 400 [calls] ... come in, and that's just the tip of the iceberg," said Daniel Williams, a senior call-taker supervisor at the anti-fraud centre. "Statistics show that only between one and five per cent of people out there will report a scam, so we know the actual numbers ... are much larger."
Computer scams involve a call from a person who pretends to work for a software company. The scammer tricks the person into giving them remote access to their computer, at which time the perpetrator can install a virus, steal files, and sometimes even use that device to scam others.
People don't need to be on a special list to fall victim to these trick computer calls – rather the scammers gain access to their information simply by calling every number listed in the phone book and online.
Tricking a trickster
Noelville resident Christian Daoust was one of the people who got the call, but he refused to be duped.
"My step-father's computer was hacked last August," Daoust said. "I decided to play [the scammer] just so that I could use that to create awareness."
Recognizing the call was a scam, Daoust recorded his conversation, and played along with the person on the other end of the line.
"Once he caught on that I was fairly computer literate, the conversation didn't go his way, it went more my way," Daoust said. "It didn't end well at all."
When he found out he was being fooled, the scammer started to swear and call Daoust inappropriate names.
While Daoust said he does not regret tricking the scammer, the RCMP says doing so can cause people more grief.
Scammers can take revenge on the people who have pretended to play along by repeatedly calling them from unlisted numbers.
"We have had consumers who have been pranked by these crooked telemarketers — sometimes for weeks on end," Williams said.
How to spot a scam
Identifying a potential computer scammer is straightforward.
No computer or software company would ever phone a person about computer problems, Williams said.
"It would always be you who would decide who you were going to approach about a problem you’re having," Williams said. "So as long as it’s an incoming call, you know it’s a scam."
Should people be on the receiving end of one of these scam calls, Williams said the best step to take is to gently tell the scammer you don’t own a computer and hang up.