Scammers get thousands every year from P.E.I. residents, say RCMP
'The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre show that this is a multi-million dollar industry'
Islanders lose money every year to scammers phoning them or emailing them, said an RCMP constable who specializes in those types of investigations.
Cst. Gavin Moore works the major crime and investigative unit of the P.E.I. RCMP and said the issue isn't going to go away but raising awareness will help.
Moore does fraud and scam investigations as part of his job and also does public presentations.
'The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre shows that this is a multi-million dollar industry,' said Moore.
He recently spoke to a seniors' group in Tignish.
"Everybody has received a scammer call or email," said Moore. "One of the ways to address it is to educate the public."
He said a recent trend would be fake job offers where people are being told they've been hired to work from home, and then they are asked to give back some money that has been sent to them.
Bad cheques and fake online ads common
Moore said common scams happening now are online ads for products that don't exist, while phone calls about broken computers or threatening calls demanding payments are also still happening.
Moore said the script can change and new tactics are tried out, but it's essentially the same scams over and over.
"Many of these scams have been around for a long long time, and the scammers just evolve with time, they flow with whatever current events are going on," he said.
"Instead of fraudsters pretending to be Microsoft now they're pretending to [be] iTunes or other companies, asking to have access to your computer," he said.
Moore said P.E.I. residents are victims to scammers regularly.
"Every year police across P.E.I. receive numerous complaints," he said. "That ranges into the thousands of dollars."
Multi-million dollar industry
According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Canadians lose millions of dollars every year to scams.
The website says between March 6, 2020 and March 31, 2021, Canadians reported more than 17,000 cases of COVID-19 fraud, and losses were estimated to be around $7.25 million.
A grant from The P.E.I. Seniors' Secretariat helps to fund various education sessions and events for the group.
"With society today and so much fraud happening, we felt it would be important to have this session," said Paulette Arsenault, organizer of the Tignish event.
I think you always think it's never going to happen to you.— Brenda Phillips
Annette Rennie said she attended the workshop to gain some knowledge to protect herself.
"We should be more aware of what our day-to-day banking and Facebook interaction is," she said.
She said she knows people who have lost money when a scammer got their credit card number.
Rennie said she gets phone calls regularly from scammers but just hangs up, which RCMP says is the right approach.
Moore said some red flags to watch for would be if you are receiving an incoming phone call or email from someone you don't know personally.
"If anybody requests money or information about you, that should be an immediate red flag," said Moore.
He said if a call or email is asking for money for whatever reason it's often a scammer.
He said there are often requests for gift cards or wire payment service.
Victim shares story
Brenda Phillips said she was a victim of fraud about 20 years ago, but when someone took her identity it wasn't via email or through a scammer phone call.
Phillips said it happened after someone stole her purse when she lived in Ontario. She didn't lose any money, but she called it an invasive experience. Police have never charged anyone.
"All of my ID was still in my purse, this person has been basically creating credit cards and things under my name," said Phillips.
She said even so many years later, she knows someone is trying to use her identity to get money.
"Lately I just got a letter saying that I had an appointment for my CERB application,"
Phillips said she never applied for the Canada emergency response benefit.
"I think you always think it's never going to happen to you," she said.