Sidney resident Arlene Urness nearly became the victim of a scam.
She placed an ad for her three- piece furniture set with an online selling service. A man, calling himself David, was the first to respond to the ad, stating that he was interested in purchasing the furniture and wanted to make an appointment to view it. A few days later, he said he was so busy that he just couldn’t make it. Urness said the man also said that he would buy it anyway and would send a cheque for the price listed of $1,800.
Urness’s friend, who had done up the ad, sent him the address so they could receive the cheque in the mail.
A few days later, she said they heard back from the man, saying he had made a mistake, making the cheque out for $2,800 instead of $1,800 so wanted $1,000 sent to him to cover the mistake.
“As soon as it arrived (on Oct. 21), I took it by the corner and I went to the RCMP and I said, ‘I think there’s a cheque in here for $2,800 and I think it’s a scam,’” said Urness.
The RCMP looked at it, she said, and told her that they had a feeling it was ‘off’.
She also went to the Bank of Montreal to tell them they were being used in the scam, as their name was displayed at the top of the cheque.
Urness said the minute the woman at the bank looked at the cheque, she said she’s seen it before — confirming it was a scam.
“She was very aware of it, she recognized it right away,” said Urness.
For Urness, the clues were obvious right from the start.
“First of all when he said that he would buy it without viewing it. I wouldn’t buy anything without seeing the actual furniture. Secondly people very rarely give you the full price.”
Corporal Erin Fraser of the Sidney North Saanich RCMP said scam activity is constant and the local police receive calls about them every week — often multiple times.
“It’s a constant,” she said. “It’s every week and those are just from the people who report it.”
Embarrassment at being scammed is one reason, she said, why some people do not report it to the police. However, she encourages people to report it as quickly as they can, to help prevent the scam from fooling other people.
The problem is, Fraser added, that once a scam is on police radar, it’s changed and the phone calls and complaints start over again.
There are ways to prevent being taken advantage of by scam.
“If you are getting money for no reason, it’s too good to be true. Look into it. Call the RCMP to see if it’s a scam.”
It seems Urness did the right thing and not only went to the police but approached the bank whose logo was being used in the scam. Fraser said by simply asking questions, people can determine if something is legitimate.
To help people arm themselves against scams, the Sidney North Saanich RCMP is holding a session on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at the Sidney Fire Hall. Fraser and Constable George Phipps will lead the session, with a focus on preventing identity theft.
Phipps said it will zero in on how it happens and how people can avoid it — what to look for and how to report it to authorities.
Fraser added there are simple precautions people can take — such as shredding financial (bills) and personal documents — to prevent someone from using your information to seek credit.
She added institutions like banks and the Canada Revenue Agency have people’s personal information already and do not call people to obtain it. Fraser said a good rule of thumb to remember is, if anyone calls asking for personal or banking information, claiming to represent a bank or the CRA, tell them you will call them back. Look up the institution’s number and call to confirm.
Fraser added, however, that despite the advice, reports of scams keep coming in.
Urness is trying to let others know about the scam that reached her, so they can be prepared.
“I just want to try to warn as many people as I can. I don’t know how you can do that to anybody.”
The Nov. 4 police session on scams starts at 6 p.m. and runs to 7:30 p.m.
— with files from Steven Heywood