It seems that there is a new warning issued by the OPP every couple of months, warning the public about scam artists operating in the area or on-line. Many of these scams are repeated over and over again, and still people fall for them. Why is this? The answer is that, to a large extent, these cons are founded on creating fear and pushing people into making impetuous decisions, often for the very best motives.
This week, the OPP have issued two such warnings to the people of this region. One has to do with a familiar tactic which makes it extremely difficult to just ignore, because it uses our love and care for family and friends as the motivating factor. It is referred to as the emergency – grandparent scam.
As the OPP note, in these cases, the victim typically receives a frantic phone call, or an emergency email, from someone claiming to be a grandchild, friend, or loved one. The scammer will explain that they are involved in some sort of legal trouble, have been injured, or are having trouble returning from a foreign country, and need money right away.
The scammer attempts to create a sense of urgency, which may cause the victim to act hastily, without verifying the story. The scammer will often insist that the victim not tell anyone, and to transfer the money that has been requested through a money transfer company. In addition to gaining an immediate cash reward from this lie, many scammers want to trick you into providing your banking and personal information. Then the criminals will fraudulently use your personal information to steal your money even after you pay the original demand.
The other scam which the OPP report this week concerns extortion scams. This one depends on shame to drive people to pay up, although it does seem that it is one that can be easily recognised. In this scenario, the scammer will inform the citizen that a video or picture, containing explicit sexual content, will be made public if they do not pay a fee. Potential victims are receiving emails from scammers citing a password that they are currently using, or previously used, as proof that they have hacked their computer while they were visiting a pornographic site and, as a result, gained access to the webcam on the victim’s computer and recorded what was happening. To prevent any humiliation, scammers urge victims to pay a “confidentiality fee” by Bitcoin, or the video will be shared with all family members, colleagues and friends.
One would imagine that this is only effective with those who have actually visited a porn site, and the Canadian Anti‑Fraud Centre (CAFC) indicates no actual video exists or is in the possession of the scammers. Reporting also suggests that the passwords being cited have been obtained from previous data breaches. The one disturbing element in this scam is that it has been known that hackers have gained access to computers without the knowledge of the real owner, and used them as cover for their own activities.
There are ways to protect yourself on-line, and these should be used regularly, regardless of how you use your computer. Change your passwords regularly ‑ especially if you’ve been involved in a data breach. Although not a guarantee, consumers may search their email address to confirm possible involvement in a previous hack or breach: https://haveibeenpwned.com. Keep anti‑virus programs updated and run checks routinely. Beware of unsolicited emails demanding personal information or immediate payment. If you’ve been involved in a data breach, contact the credit bureaus to place fraud alerts on your identity.
If a scam artist contacts you, or if you have been defrauded, contact your local police service and the Canadian Anti‑Fraud Centre (CAFC). You can file a report with the CAFC by calling 1‑888‑495‑8501 (Monday to Friday 9:00am ‑ 5:00pm EST), or by using their online reporting tool at www.antifraudcentre.ca.