Oak Bay residents are seeing messages like this pop up on the cell phone. While they look legitimate, they can be dangerous. (Screengrab courtesy Jon Swoveland)

Surge in scam calls to Oak Bay police

‘If it seems too good to be true, it likely is.’

Oak Bay seems to be in the upswing in the cycle of scammers, if there is such a thing as the downswing.

“We do seem to be hearing more frequently about email and phone scams but it’s difficult to assess whether they’re occurring more frequently or we’re simply hearing about it more,” said Deputy Chief Ray Bernoties, Oak Bay Police Department.

A number of scams are making the rounds, from phone calls to emails and texts from those seeking to part residents from their hard-earned cash. This week Oak Bay police heard from residents that the CRA scam is back and of fake BC Hydro rebate.

“If it seems too good to be true, it likely is,” Bernoties says.

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In what’s commonly called the CRA scam, fraudsters impersonate Canada Revenue Agency personnel. The fraudsters contact victims and inform the victim they owe the government money and threatens the victim with court action or jail if they don’t pay immediately. The fraudster then directs the victims to transfer Bitcoins or purchase gift cards in the amount they ‘owe.’

“There are often little signs that make it apparent that it’s a scam. I don’t think Revenue Canada has ever written me with “Dear Taxpayer” before,” Bernoties said. “Far too often, people are tricked by these scams which seem to be evolving and becoming more difficult to spot.”

The other is a refund scam, where a company you likely use, such as BC Hydro or Telus, appears to send a ‘refund’.

“I would be very reluctant to wire money and would never do so to a company or organization or person who I don’t know personally,” Bernoties said.

Over the phone, is the easiest to skip a scam, police say, simply don’t share information with any unsolicited caller.

“When I answer my phone, and hear a delay, I know someone is about to try to sell me something. What are the odds that this stranger is calling me with an offer at the very moment that I was thinking I wanted to buy it? Needless to say, when I hear the delay I just advise them “I’m not interested. If I was, I would’ve called you,” Bernoties said. “If you want to verify the information you receive, find the number of the company or organization on a legitimate webpage and call them. Don’t trust the information you’ve been provided by the caller.”

Police suggest a quick search of the company online with the word scam in the search will likely yield confirmation you’re not the first to experience an attempted scam.

“We’re concerned about some of our more vulnerable population as they are targeted and re-targeted and they may have additional challenges in identifying the legitimacy of unsolicited calls. Depending on the circumstances, a caregiver may want to put some controls in place to reduce the likelihood of an individual being defrauded,” Bernoties said.

There may be a need to safeguard their banking and credit information, screen out phone calls and other actions that could be appropriate depending on the circumstances. Visit the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca for tips.


 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com

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