Fraudsters are hard at work year-round, but March is Fraud Prevention Month, and Greater Victoria police departments remind the public to be cautious about who, and what, they trust.
Sgt. Julie Fast of the Saanich Police Department says some of the most common frauds reported in Saanich are romance and rental scams.
She said reports of rental scams have increased as housing becomes harder to secure for many in Greater Victoria.
“When we need housing, especially in a market where rental vacancy rates are so low, it can become almost a full-time job looking for a place to rent,” she said. “When suddenly, something is posted and seems perfect. It looks so good.”
But attempts to view the unit will be denied, and the landlord, typically, will be ‘unable’ to meet you. The address itself can be fake, or they might pull a random address from the street, Fast said.
Soon they will be asking for personal information and eventually, money to secure the lease.
Fast said romance scams, similarly, exploit people who are often in tough situations.
Contact usually starts through dating websites and moves to texting or email.
“It’s almost a bit of a grooming exercise that happens,” Fast said. “It just grows and grows and the victim has become really, really connected and has built in their minds a picture of who this person is.”
She said often, the fraudster will start by asking only for small amounts of money. But as the scam develops, she has seen victims re-mortgage their homes or sell their possessions as the demands grow.
While there are plenty of resources available at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, Fast said the scams are changing, almost on a daily basis.
It’s important to be aware and be cautious, she said.
“Never share your personal information unless you can confirm who you’re sharing it with. If you see something [online] that’s too good to be true – a sale, an offer or a deal – it is.”
Fast recommends using credit cards for all online transactions, and finally, recommends getting a second opinion before sending your information or money away.
“Take a pause and run through the whole thing in your head with your family or friends.”
For more information about protecting yourself and your family from fraud, visit antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm.