June 16th, 2024

Pandemic exposes new fraud vulnerabilities

By Ry Clarke - for the Lethbridge Herald on April 1, 2022.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) is reminding all Canadians of the importance of vigilance and being aware of the legitimacy of phone calls asking personal information.

The CAFC reports around $379 million was lost to fraud scams in 2021 seeing an increase by 130 per cent from 2020.

Sue Labine, call centre supervisor for the CAFC, gives insight into the rise saying the pandemic exposed new vulnerabilities for potential fraud victimization.

“We did see more than double increases from 2020 to 21. What I can say is that losses reported to Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reached an all-time high of $379 million in 2021.”

Throughout March the Lethbridge Police Service had been sharing weekly tips with the public on Facebook and Twitter, helping educate the community on what to do if they suspect fraud and ways to report scams.

“We need to emphasize the education component of it, and getting information out to some of these people,” said Sergeant Kevin Talbot with the LPS Economic Crime Unit. “Everything is associated to fraud at some point in time. It’s really important that we focus on it, and we educate people as best we can.”

‘Money Mules’ is an ongoing scam that tricks residents into accepting money and using them to launder money from criminal activities. Talbot says ‘money muling’ makes the victim complicit in the offence and adds complications to tracking down the real criminals.

“By taking the money and putting it in the bank account, or sending cash to the fraudsters, they unknowingly do this. But once we make them aware, now they’re participating […] After they’ve been told they are involved in fraudulent activity, that’s where we will then consider laying criminal charges. If we continue to not be able to get through to them that what they are involved in is illegal.”

Talbot says Lethbridge has charged an individual in the past for ‘money muling’ along with active investigations.

Fraudsters will use pressuring tactics to acquire personal information or manipulate facts to trick targets. When suspecting fraud do not give any personal information away, ask direct questions that can’t be answered vaguely or with easily acquired information, and contact the authorities: the anti-fraud centre, or local non-emergency lines.

“What we want people to do is report it to us, but also report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. The more information we get out there to law enforcement the better we’re equipped to deal with the trends, and the changing trends,” said Talbot.

The CAFC estimates only five per cent of fraud cases are reported and are working with the RCMP’s National Cybercrime Coordination Unit to develop a new reporting system for Canadians that will launch around 2023-2024.

Fraud tends to go under reported because victims can feel embarrassed, or that nothing can be done. There are things the police can do to help victims of fraud. Reporting fraud helps stop it before it starts, allowing police and fraud services to track new and changing trends.

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