North Saanich couple loses $20,000 in email scam

RCMP warn people not to give out personal or financial information.

A North Saanich couple are out $20,000 after they gave their banking information to someone who they thought was from their financial institution.

And there may be no way for them to recover that money.

Corporal Douglas Wilson of the Sidney North Saanich RCMP says police are investigating what is commonlly known as a ‘phishing’ scam — or attempts by fraudsters to obtain people’s personal or financial information in order to steal their money. Wilson said incidents like these are very hard to prove, the perpatrators difficult to catch, and in most cases, even if they do catch the culprits, the money is long gone.

In this case, the couple received an email in January, which appared to them to be a legitimate email from a major Canadian bank. The email advised them their account had been compromised and asked them to provide their personal and private information in order to resolve the issue. Wilson stated the couple followed those instructions and later discovered that more than $20,000 in their account was gone.

Wilson said the RCMP has ways of tracking the missing money, which could be bounced around across Canada or world wide. There are also ways to determine where the original email came from.

That’s where investigations can get tricky.

Wilson said it can be hard to prove — even if investigators find the computer used in the fraud — who was actually using the computer at the time a crime was committed. Evidence gathering, from computer internet provider (IP) addresses to the actual perprtrators, is a long and difficult process.

“The challenges are high and the people who are doing this know that,” Wilson said.

Phishing scams — so named due to its similarity to ‘fishing’ — is bascially a form of bait in an attempt to hook a victim. In a media release, Wilson stated that according to the third Microsoft Computing Safer Index Report released in February 2014, the annual worldwide impact of “phishing” scams could be as high as $5 billion.

The scam is typically done by someone posing as what might look like an official or legitimate source. They will look very official and direct people to any number of ways of handing over personal or financial information.

Wilson said the best way to prevent being taken in by these scams, is to not give anyone that information.

“Don’t give it out to anybody,” he said. “Keep it secure. Once they’ve got it, it can cause a lot of problems.”

Real banks and other financial institutions will not ask for your account information, he stated, as they already have it.

Wilson suggests if you get a phishing-type email message, do not respond and do not clink on any links in the message. The best thing to do is contact your financial institution directly and ask it’s legitimate.

Wilson said the RCMP do follow up and are continuing to investigate the North Saanich couple’s case.

“The money will leave a trail, as it transfers from place to place,” Wilson said, adding it could lead them somewhere, or to a dead end.

In both instances, it’s probable the $20,000 will be gone. Wilson said when people willingly give people their financial information, the banks’ responsibility for any loss of money typically is also gone.

Wilson is also warning people to be aware of a variety of other scams — in particular the Canada Revenue Agency Scam and wire transfer scam. He said people need to take care of their personal information and not give it out to anyone.