SENIORS IN FOCUS: Protecting yourself from intenet and other scams

Sidney North Saanich RCMP Constable George Phipps recently gave a presentation on internet safety to the CFUW.

Constable George Phipps gives a presentation to the Canadian Federation of University Women recently.

Have you fallen victim to the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) phone call?

Have people called you time and time again saying you won big money?

Then you’ve been a potential victim of a scam.

Sidney North Saanich RCMP Constable George Phipps recently gave a presentation on internet safety to the Saanich Peninsula chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW).

Having policed for 20 years and living in Sidney for almost half of that time, Phipps  said it’s one of the nicest and safest places to live. What he does find frightening however, are the amount of frauds and scams.

“As simplistic as a lot of these scams are …  they’re just very professionally done,” he said in his presentation on Nov. 22.

Scams can strike almost anyone, with all age groups falling victim when they don’t know who is on the other end of the line, he said.

“One of the things I like to tell people is if you ever do fall for one of these scams … tell somebody.”

A lot of the scams Phipps deals with are the mass marketing frauds, mainly taking place over the internet.

The big one is the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Scam, which has people falling victim to vicious phone calls saying they owe money when really they don’t.

This sees police taking 15 to 20 phone calls a day.

Credit card interest rate scams are the other big ones.

“The only person that can reduce your credit card interest rate is the credit card company itself, not some third party company,” said Phipps.

When an email arrives suggesting just that, he said, people should just delete it.

Here in Sidney, he said, police respond to a variety of home repair scams. People are approached by fraudsters, who then do sub-standard work. They offer things like overnight makeovers for a price too good to be true.

An example Phipps referenced was a man named Eugene Darling, who was known as the Gas Man. Darling would go through Sidney, North Saanich, Central Saanich and into Victoria advertising the sale and repair of gas appliances.

“He’s not licensed … but he would talk somebody into getting a gas fireplace (or) a gas hot water heater fixed … and he would just swap things out…” said Phipps.

Phipps said Darling was later charged and found guilty of fraud.

To protect oneself from these scams, the key is to look at appearance and references.

Other scams include prize scams, where people are told they’ve won money, when really it’s not the case.

There is also something called the merchandise scam, which happened to a woman in Sidney.

She was selling her furniture for $1,800 and got a phone call from a scammer who said they couldn’t come out to see it.

They then sent her a cheque for $1,000 more than she was asking. They called her back, asking her to send the $1,000 back to them — which the local woman luckily didn’t do.

“If you’re selling something and somebody sends you more money than you have asked for, considerably more, it’s a scam,” said Phipps.

In this case, he said, ask questions, know who you’re dealing with and never accept a cheque for more than your asking price.

There mystery shopper scams, charity scams and many more, leaving many victims out a significant amount of money.

If you are a victim of any kind of scam, call police, check your credit card statement or report the scam to Better Business Bureau.