It’s easy to think you or your family would never fall victim to fraudsters, but the reality is scammers target everyone. Citizens from different backgrounds, ages, education, and income levels are sought out by fraudsters who are constantly changing their methods to attract potential victims. March is Fraud Prevention Month, which means the Calgary Police Service (CPS) will be working all month with various community partners to ensure Calgarians are armed with the tools and knowledge to protect themselves and their families from scams.
This year, CPS and community partners are focusing on cybercrime, business services scams, and other scams that use technology to reach citizens.
Cybercrime - protect your electronics
Virtually everyone, including kids, has access to the Internet. Cellphones, tablets, computers, and Smart TVs connect people with the Web at the touch of a button. While the Internet can be an educational and resourceful place, it can also serve as a hiding place for scammers looking to swipe your personal information.
Here are some tips to protect your electronics:
Use password protection on all your devices. If your device ends up lost or stolen, password protection can prevent strangers and criminals from accessing the information stored on your device.
Don’t overshare. Information sharing is easy on various social media platforms. Remember, personal information such as your Social Insurance Number, banking information, even your home address or birthday shouldn’t be posted or shared on public profiles. In the wrong hands, this information can be used by criminals to commit identity theft in your name or your child’s name.
Use privacy settings. Be sure to privatize profile accounts so you’re only sharing information with family and friends you know and trust. Public profiles allow anyone, anywhere, at any time to access your photos and other profile information for potentially illegal purposes.
Business service scams
Business service scams involve fraudsters claiming to be part of a legitimate sounding company, or charity, to weasel citizens out of their money and information. The Calgary Police Service urges citizens to always ask questions and research organizations to ensure they’re dealing with legitimate ones.
Some examples of business service scams include:
Contractor scams - Illegitimate, unlicensed contractors who ask for a deposit upfront, usually in cash, and disappear without completing any work.
Charity scams - Fraudsters who set up phoney, but realistic sounding charitable organizations, try to entice donors with stories that tug on the heartstrings. In reality, it’s just a clever scheme to steal people’s money.
Tech support scams - You receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from a well-known software company, saying your computer has been infected with a virus. If you grant the caller remote access, they can safely remove the virus... for a fee, of course. If you allow remote access, the scammer can access all of your personal information stored on your device.
Other scams that use technology
Always be suspicious of unsolicited emails, texts, or phone calls. Many scammers will try and contact unsuspecting citizens in an attempt to gain personal information. This can be done through phone calls, text messages, emails, or other online messaging through social media sites. If you receive any strange requests, never provide your personal information and cease communication immediately.
Never click on links that are included in unsolicited messages, emails, or text messages. If you do accidentally click on these links, never log in to any accounts or input personal or financial information. If you are suspicious of an email, contact the company through a phone number you have Googled yourself to check if it’s legitimate.
Steve Barlow is the interim Chief Constable of the Calgary Police Service.
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