PEI

Scam artists take fraud to 'different level' using real RCMP phone number

Police say fraudsters took their scam to a new level this week when they used a valid RCMP phone number to try to convince a western P.E.I. woman she was facing arrest by Revenue Canada unless she sent them money. 

P.E.I. woman empties bank account after real-looking call

'If it's a legitimate call, you're going to speak to a human,' not an automated message, says RCMP Cst. Robert Dowling. (CBC)

Police say fraudsters took their scam to a new level this week when they used a valid RCMP phone number to try to convince a western P.E.I. woman she was facing arrest by Canada Revenue Agency unless she sent them money. 

The woman called West Prince RCMP Thursday to complain someone had called her using an automated message from a 514 area code, warned her there was a warrant for her arrest and asked her to empty her bank account to pay them. 

When she pressed a button to speak with someone, she was transferred to a number that displayed on her phone as West Prince RCMP, and was the detachment's correct phone number. She then spoke with a man who failed her sniff test: he was unable to tell her what detachment he worked from.

"She actually emptied her bank account — she was worried they would have accessed it," said Cst. Robert Dowling of West Prince RCMP. 

"She was nervous when she realized it was a fraud," he said, even though she did not give the callers any personal or banking information. 

Just hang up

The same number with the 514 area code had previously been used to attempt fraud in recent weeks in Alberta and Nova Scotia, Dowling said.

If people receive these kinds of calls, Dowling said to be aware RCMP will never ask for anyone's social insurance number or banking information, and don't press buttons to speak to someone — simply hang up.

"If it's a legitimate call, you're going to speak to a human," Dowling said. "Don't give them any personal information whatsoever." 

In a written release, RCMP note Canada Revenue Agency scams have been common for years. If you receive a call of this nature, they suggest visiting the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

The release noted "the complaint took on a different level when the scammer used a functioning RCMP phone number and address." Fraudsters use a computer program to generate information that looks real, Dowling said. 

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Wayne Thibodeau

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