Cornwall police warn about taxes, utilities scams

Cornwall police warn about taxes, utilities scams
Even law enforcement are targeted by online fraudsters: Cornwall Community Police Service Sgt. Brian Snyder displays a scam email he received claiming to be a financial opportunity

CORNWALL, Ontario – Yes, the emails from a Ghana businessman and Canada Revenue Agency about free money and unpaid taxes are indeed from a scam artist.

With fraud prevention month coming up in March, the Ontario Association of Police Chiefs and Cornwall Community Police Service are raising awareness of the dangers of financial crimes and fraud. The campaign theme is ‘Know Who You’re Dealing With.’

“Police dispatchers are receiving numerous calls about online and phone scams involving taxes and utilities,” CCPS Const. Dan Cloutier told Seaway News on Thursday (Feb. 25).

E-mails claiming to be from the CRA have been circulating that request you to complete a form with your social insurance number and date of birth.

The e-mail indicates you are eligible for a tax credit or are delinquent in your tax payments, neither of which is true. The threat suggests police will make an arrest if payments are not made.

CCPS Sgt. Brian Snyder noted that individuals and businesses can call the agency to confirm the authenticity of a telephone number or report incidents of suspected fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

“During the past year, police across Ontario have become increasingly aware of very sophisticated, well-organized financial criminal activities that prey on people’s lack of understanding about their rights when it comes to their financial matters,” said Snyder. “If you feel uneasy about someone calling you or showing up at your door about your taxes or your utility bills, if you notice suspicious banking or on-line activities related to your financial assets, don’t be fooled. Call for help.”

The CRA will not do the following:

send emails containing any links

• request taxpayers to attend and purchase any gift cards

• request personal information of any kind from a taxpayer by email or text message

• divulge taxpayer information to another person unless formal authorization is provided by the taxpayer

• leave any personal information on an answering machine or asks taxpayers to leave a message with their personal information on an answering machine

For more information, visit To report a fraud, contact 1-800-959-8281.

How can I recognize a scam?

If It sounds too good to be true.

• You’ve won a big prize in a contest that you don’t recall entering. You’re offered a once-in-a-lifetime investment that offers a huge return. You’re told that you can buy into a lottery ticket pool that cannot lose.

You must pay or you can’t play

• “You’re a winner!” But you must agree to send money to the caller in order to pay for delivery, processing, taxes, duties or some other fee in order to receive your prize. Sometimes the caller will even send a courier to pick up your money.

You must give them your private financial information

• The caller asks for all your confidential banking and/or credit card information. Honest businesses do not require these details unless you are using that specific method of payment.

Will that be cash… or cash?

• Often criminal telemarketers ask you to send cash or a money order, rather than a cheque or credit card. Cash is untraceable and can’t be cancelled. Also, criminals also have difficulty in establishing themselves as merchants with legitimate credit card companies.

The caller is more excited than you are

• The criminals want to get you excited about this “opportunity” so that you won’t be able to think clearly.

It’s the manager calling

• The person calling claims to be a government official, tax officer, banking official, lawyer or some other person in authority. The person calls you by your first name and asks you a lot of personal or lifestyle questions (like how often do your grown children visit you?).

The stranger calling wants to become your best friend

• Criminals love finding out if you’re lonely and willing to talk. Once they know that, they’ll try to convince you that they are your friend – after all, we don’t normally suspect our friends of being criminals.

It’s a limited opportunity and you’re going to miss out

• If you are pressured to make a big purchase decision immediately, it’s probably not a legitimate deal. Real businesses or charities will give you a chance to check them out or think about it. 

What can I do to protect myself?

Remember, legitimate telemarketers have nothing to hide

• However, criminals will say anything to part you from your hard-earned money.

• Be cautious. 

You have the right to check out any caller by requesting written information, a call back number, references and time to think over the offer.

Legitimate business people will be happy to provide you with that information. After all, they want the “bad guys” out of business too. Always be careful about providing confidential personal information, especially banking or credit card details, unless you are certain the company is legitimate. And, if you have doubts about a caller, your best defence is to simply hang up. It’s not rude – it’s smart.

If you’re in doubt, it’s wise to ask the advice of a close friend or relative, or even your banker. Rely on people you can trust. 

Remember, you can Stop Phone Fraud – Just Hang Up!

I suspect that a relative or friend is being targeted by unscrupulous telemarketers. What can I do?

Watch for any of these warning signs

• a marked increase in the amount of mail with too-good-to-be-true offers

• frequent calls offering get-rich-quick schemes or valuable awards, or numerous calls for donations to unfamiliar charities

• a sudden inability to pay normal bills

• requests for loans or cash

• banking records that show cheques or withdrawals made to unfamiliar companies

• secretive behaviour regarding phone calls.

If you suspect that someone you know has fallen prey to a deceptive telemarketer, don’t criticize them for being naïve. Encourage that person to share their concerns with you about unsolicited calls or any new business or charitable dealings. Assure them that it is not rude to hang up on suspicious calls. Keep in mind that criminal telemarketers are relentless in hounding people – some victims report receiving 5 or more calls a day, wearing down their resistance. And, once a person has succumbed to this ruthless fraud, their name and number will likely go on a “sucker list”, which is sold from one crook to another.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the top three scams are as follows:

Service Scam

Any false, deceptive or misleading promotion of services or solicitation for services. These scams typically involve third parties that make offers for telecommunications, internet, finance, medical and energy services. This category of scams may also include, but is not limited to, offers such as extended warranties, insurance and sales services.

Prize Pitch

One of the most common scams is the “prize pitch”. Consumers are told they have been specially selected to win a prize, or have been awarded one of three or two of five prizes. These prizes usually include cash or a vehicle. You must purchase a product and pay in advance to receive your prize. These products may include “coin collections”, personalized pen sets, etc. The products are generally cheap or overpriced, but may sound valuable over the phone.

Remember, in a legitimate contest you do not have to purchase a product to qualify for a prize.

You may also encounter the “sweepstakes scam”. After entering a fake sweepstakes contest in the mail, you will receive a call within two to four weeks from a fraudulent telemarketer. This person will usually identify themselves as a lawyer, judge, customs agent or other official. They will represent themselves as an agent for a particular company. You will be told that you have won a large cash award, but money must be sent up front for taxes, etc.

Emergency or “Grandparent” Scam

Though the “Emergency Scam” (or sometimes referred to as the “Grandparent Scam”) has been around for years, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre warns the public to be on alert after noting a marked increase in the number of complaints in the last two months.

In the typical scenario, a grandparent receives a phone call from a con-artist claiming to be one of his or her grandchildren.  The caller goes on to say that they are in some kind of trouble and need money immediately. Typically they claim being in a car accident, trouble returning from a foreign country or they need bail money.

Victims don’t verify the story until after the money has been sent as the caller specifically asks that they do not want other relatives to know what has happened.

Wanting to help their grandchild, the victim sends money by a money transfer company such as Money Gram or Western Union.

Variations on the scam exist such as an old neighbour, a friend of the family etc. but predominantly the emergency scam is directed toward the grandparents.

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