Seniors are the most targeted group of people in the country when it comes to internet scams and phone fraud, according to Corporal Ken Aspen of the Warman RCMP detachment.
In a presentation at the Warman Community Library recently, Aspen said fraud artists are interested in only one thing.
“They want your money,” said Aspen. “And they’ll stop at nothing to get it. They don’t care if you go broke and have to eat dog food for the next three years.”
Aspen, who spent several years in a branch of the RCMP specializing in investigations into financial crime, said seniors may be less likely to recognize phone fraud because they tend to be more trusting.
“When you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Revenue Canada, the RCMP, or your bank, just hang up,” said Aspen. “And report it to the police. The reality is that these agencies don’t call you up and ask you to provide personal information. It just doesn’t happen.”
Aspen said this type of thief is looking for “key pieces of information, such as your name, your date of birth, your social insurance number, your birth certificate or your passport.
“Stealing your identity allows these criminals access to your bank account,” said Aspen.
He said there is an almost infinite variety of internet scams and phone fraud schemes that people need to be wary of.
“Scams are reinvented all the time,” said Aspen. “It really bothers me to see seniors losing thousands of dollars to scam artists. I know of quite a few people in the Martensville and Warman area who have been victimized by fraud. It’s a very real threat.”
Aspen said there are “two simple rules” that provide a good rule of thumb for identifying scams.
“If it sounds too good to be true, then it likely is,” said Aspen. “That’s rule number one. Rule number two is: nothing is ever free.”
Aspen said another guideline is: “if they’re asking for money, then hang up.”
Phone fraud usually involves the caller putting undue pressure on you to send money via a wire service like Western Union, said Aspen. In such cases, it is very difficult to catch the crooks because they’re usually operating from a foreign country.
“The chances of getting your money back are pretty much nil,” said Aspen. He said those types of criminal operations, known as “boiler rooms,” usually involve “about thirty or forty people” at a bank of phones. They make thousands of calls all over the world, and they bring in tens of thousands of dollars in profits. In some cases, the organizations behind these operations are terrorist groups, he said.
Aspen said if you or someone you know is a victim of fraud, it’s important to contact police.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” he said. “Just ask for help.”
The Sask Central Victim Services organization, based out of the Martensville RCMP building, is also available to help victims of online scams or phone fraud. The local RCMP numbers are 306-975-1670 or 306-975-1610.