July 20th, 2024

Police warn residents to avoid scams

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on March 12, 2024.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Sgt. Kevin Talbot of the Economic Crimes Unit listens to a question at police headquarters.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The old adage that there’s a sucker born every minute may hold true to this day. And during Fraud Prevention Month, Lethbridge police are warning residents to keep an eye out for scams.

Only five to 10 per cent of frauds are actually reported to police, LPS sergeant Kevin Talbot of the Economic Crimes Unit said on Monday.

One reason is due to victim embarrassment,another possibility is that people just think nothing can done and yet another is people think fraud happens so frequently and they have to expect to be a victim at some time, said Talbot..

And frauds impact every age group from teenagers to seniors, Talbot said at LPS headquarters.

“At one point in time, we did see a lot of seniors being taken advantage of. But that has disappeared,” the sergeant said.

“The types of crimes that are associated with age demographic might be a little bit more consistent that way but frauds impact every age group,” he added.

City police are seeing a “massive increase” in investment frauds, he noted. Most involve cryptocurrency investments, said Talbot. While crypto isn’t new, “it’s gaining momentum within the public realm where people are wanting to invest and make some money” and some are investing without doing their homework to make sure the investment firm is registered in Canada, he said.

“And then they’re taken of advantage and they lose their entire investment.”

People who are going to invest in Canada need to make sure they’re working with a registered company by going online to https://www.securities-administrators.ca/ which has a portal where potential investors can type in a name to see if the firm is registered in this country.

“If they’re not, you’re taking a risk by investing with them,” said Talbot, who is trained to trace crytocurrency transactions for LPS.

When people come forward who have lost their investment, Talbot can trace the transactions to the point of an exchange and police will try to identify the scammer and seize the currently and try to disrupt the scam from happening again to someone else.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, in 2023 Canadians lost $554 million to fraud, up from $531 million in 2022. While losses were up from 2022, the number of victims was lower in 2023 – 41,111 – compared to 57,578 in 2022. And last year, there were 62,365 reports processed compared to 92,078 in 2022.

The centre is a department of the federal government that collects information from Canadians on identity theft and fraud.

Between 2021 and 2023, with assistance from the fraud centre, $6,693,830 was recovered for scam victims.

LPS has several tips for city residents to help them avoid being victimized by a scammer.

They include:

• If it sounds too good to be true, it is. All investments have some level of risk. Fraudsters often try to hook people by guaranteeing extremely high returns in a short period of time with little to no risk.

• Pressure to make a quick decision. Individuals who promote fraudulent schemes don’t want to give you time to figure out their game. They may also pressure you to invest a little at first and once you do, they will come back seeking a larger amount.

Fraudsters may offer to help you with your investment account or ask for remote access to your computer or mobile device. Giving out account information or allowing someone to access your device is extremely risky.

• Exclusive offers. Be wary of investments that are promoted as exclusive offers only you and select people have access to. Fraudsters like to name drop, or say they have access to famous or rich people when promoting an investment.

• “Insider” information. If an investment advisor or individual says they are giving you confidential investment advice, they may be deceiving your or their employer. Both put you at risk. It’s illegal to knowingly trade on inside information.

• Offshore firms and advisors. If a firm or individual from outside Canada is trying to open an account for you, wants to give you trading or investment advice or is offering an investment, be extremely wary. Brokerage firms need to register with your province or territory as dealers or advisors n order to open trading accounts or recommend investments. Visit the Canadian Securities Administrators website at https://www.securities-administrators.ca/ and use the National Registration Search Tool to check if an investment firm is registered in Canada.

• Anti-establishment. Any individual who encourages you to subvert the government or avoid financial institutions is most likely trying to keep their illegal activities from being tracked.

• Cutting out the paper trail. Without documents for investment purchases, statements or a prospectus, a fraudster can easily take your money without being detected.

Avoiding the question. If the person selling you the investment doesn’t answer your questions or they use diversionary tactics, they’re probably trying to keep you from seeing the truth. A legitimate investment advisor has nothing to hide.

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