Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Seniors easy prey for scam artists: Police

Detective will give tips to avoid being a victim
January 08, 2009
"It’s just a matter of educating people on not giving personal information."
From bogus home renovation firms to identity thieves, scam artists are constantly finding new ways to prey on Kanata’s seniors, according to an Ottawa police detective specializing in fraud and identity theft.

Seniors can be easy prey because “they are more trusting and they’re not used to these modern types of frauds,” said Det. Bob Arbour, a member of the police’s organized fraud unit since 2002.

That’s why Arbour is offering a primer on preventing fraud at the next meeting of the Probus Club of Kanata at Kanata United Church on Tuesday, Jan. 13. The meeting starts at 10 a.m.

The police detective has seen it all, from criminals claiming to represent credit card companies to phony door-to-door salespeople trying to auction off counterfeit currency.

But anyone has the potential to be fooled by a scam artist, he said. It just depends on “how good of a fraudster you’re dealing with,” said Arbour.

“It’s human nature,” he said. “We’re honest people and want to believe the people were dealing with are honest.

“But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Arbour offers a few basic tips to avoid being had:

  • Never give out your personal information. If your bank or credit card company is calling, they will already have your information. They won’t need to ask. “(Many seniors are) not aware of what they should provide,” said Arbour. “You shouldn’t be providing any information.”
  • Always ask for identification. Make sure you know who you are dealing with. Find out what company they work for and research that company at a later time.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal. There’s no harm in taking some time to research your investment, said Arbour. There’s also no harm in deciding you’re not interested either.

“It’s just a matter of educating people on not giving personal information,” said Arbour. “It will eliminate a lot of investigations.”


There are several sophisticated ways a scam artist can illegally dig up your personal information, whether through online phishing – e-mails or websites masquerading as trusted companies – or compromised pin pads at ATM machines. But one of the more popular techniques is also one of the most rudimentary: it’s called dumpster diving.

A scam artist will pick through your garbage and paper recycling bin for unshredded documents. They can do the same at financial institutions that don’t properly destroy their waste.

With that information, Arbour said crooks can sometimes get phony debit cards to access your bank.

But not all scams are that elaborate.

Arbour has seen cases where scamsters were trying to sell fake, blackened currency that they claimed had been illegally smuggled into the country. The buyer is only asked to buy a chemical to remove the black substance.

“That’s why we don’t get very many complaints (about this type of scam) because they think they’re just as guilty as the person scamming them,” said Arbour. “We’re human so we have a certain amount of greed.”

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