Scams and frauds are nothing new, but the internet has made it easier for criminals to reach out from anywhere in the world in an attempt to obtain your money or your personal data. And with social media becoming more widely used, the information that scammers need to trick innocent people is more readily available. In 2020, fraud attempts and financial losses climbed dramatically. Dave is a retired police officer who has had a lot of experience with scams and their victims. He has also spoken directly with hundreds of scammers in an attempt to understand what they do, why they do it, and how the public can avoid falling victim to the frauds. All scammers are after your money, or your personal data to get at your money, but their ploys and techniques are extremely varied. They are often imaginative and sophisticated enough to be convincing. They can work from anywhere in the world, reaching out to potential victims by phone, email, or social media. Dave received a call from a number disguised as local. When he answered, a voice with an ominous message told him that he was in trouble unless he spoke with a government agent about his social insurance number and bank account. When he pressed 1 to be connected, he was asked for a name to confirm his identity. The caller pretended to be with the investigations department of Service Canada. As if he had a file in front of him, he pretended to confirm the fake information that Dave provided. Masquerading as "Robert Spencer", Dave provided a postal code from another city and a number for the police in that area. The agent on the line said that he had detected all manner of horrific crimes in relation to ten bank accounts in the name of Robert Spencer. Professing his innocence, "Robert" convinced the agent that he was not connected with the crimes. The agent pretended that he would speak with police on Robert's behalf to help him avoid the charges. The agent pretended to speak with an officer from the local police and then the fake police officer also spoke with "Robert". Together, they explained an elaborate scheme in which Robert's bank account was in jeopardy and his money needed to be moved to a secure government account. The officers would protect Robert's money and return it to him the following day. Obviously, the funds would be deposited as instructed and "Robert" would never see them or hear from the officers again. But somebody who believed these scammers could easily be tricked into thinking that they were avoiding a scam, or legal proceedings, by following the instructions. These schemers prey on the naïve. They victimize those who are afraid of being in trouble or afraid of being defrauded. The elderly and those with less understanding of technology and the internet make easy targets. Dave will tell you that engaging with these scammers is never advised. Seemingly innocent conversations can provide them with pieces of information that they collect and share. One correct piece of data, even a first name or your correct city, can be used with your phone number to find you on social media and gather even more information. Dave speaks with these scammers to get to the heart of their technique and also to demonstrate how persistent and convincing they might be. While it might be entertaining to try and scam them back, it is usually pointless and risky. Dave's advice is to never provide or confirm a single piece of information over the phone. If the call seems real, ask for a name and then politely hang up. Use a different phone to call the agency directly and verify the caller's identity. Your bank or law enforcement will applaud you for your good sense and caution. Always look up the number yourself instead of dialing one provided by the caller. Occasionally, scammers will hijack your phone and your verification call to any number will be rerouted to them without you knowing it was done. Remember that anyone can obtain your mobile or home number easily and finding your name and address is not difficult after that. If you understand the scam and you refuse to provide any information or follow any instructions, you will be less likely to ever be the victim of one of these scams. Police will never call somebody on the phone to threaten arrest. Your bank will never call and ask you to divulge information. And government agencies will not call you to help you secure your funds from scammers. Exercise a little caution and don't be fooled!
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