Constable Aaron Miller speaks to Rotary about the dangers of fraud

(RIght) Community Services Officer Constable Aaron Miller with Prince Edward Detachment Commander John Hatch provide information to a member of the public at the Senior's Fair last fall. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

The Rotary Club of Picton welcomed OPP Constable Aaron Miller to their weekly Zoom meeting this week. Miller spoke mainly to the issue of fraud, revealing the many cracks criminals use to get money from strangers and the ways in which COVID-19 has provided even more opportunities for this type of crime.

“Since the provincial state of emergency was announced, a lot has changed as we are all affected by it in one way or another, whether it’s non essential businesses being closed, gathering restrictions etc.,” commented Miller. “The issue, though, is that more time indoors often means we’re spending more time online or on the phone, so this leads to an increased chance of victimization.”

Despite our ability to adapt to social distancing protocols as our lives move increasingly online, Miller stated that criminals are adapting even faster than we are.

Many scammers work by exploiting the emotions of their victims. At a time such as this when emotions are running high, the public is even more vulnerable.

“They work to our emotions, exploiting the COVID-19 crisis and using it against us,” he said.

One such scam is coined the Grandparent’s Scam. Often, a fraudster will masquerade as a police officer, pretending that a relative of the intended victim is in trouble. The only solution being, of course, a transfer of money.

Miller is adamant that fraud does not distinguish between the young and the old, but affects people of any demographic.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, or what age group. Everybody is being victimized,”he stated.

With the pandemic at play, criminals are using similar tactics as always to scam their victims but with a COVID-19 twist.

“With some of the COVID-19 specific scams, they’re using the same techniques and often we’re finding they’re using the same basic fraud attempts, they’re just putting a slight spin to it with respect to COVID,” noted Miller.

Another common scam is when an employer’s email is hacked and the hacker subsequently requests help, usually of the monetary variety, from an employee.

With the current health crisis, criminals are using this same method but instead successfully executing the attacks using government or healthcare information, Miller noted.

There have also been examples of fraudsters going door to door trying to sell various suspicious, COVID-19 related apparatus, from air filters to herbal cures.

Whenever in doubt, Miller stated it’s important to ask yourself whether the phone call, text message etc was initiated by you or a potential criminal.

For accurate information, he added, it is always advisable to check a verified source, whether it be the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website, that of the Hastings and Prince Edward Health Unit or even the social media sites for the local OPP Detachment.

Above all, stressed Miller, if fraud has occurred or is even suspected, it is important to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. The more that is known about these types of crimes, the more can be done to stop them.

“The scary statistic when it comes to fraud, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Network, is only about 95 per cent or 5 per cent of frauds are actually reported,” explained Miller. “ The statistics we expect are incredibly difficult to predict or report but even if that number is somewhat accurate, it’s frightening the amount of fraud occurring.”

An example of successful anti-fraud tracking is the recent closure of overseas warehouses in relation to the rampant CRA scams.

“That was a direct result of data compiled by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC). They’re able to mobilize their national partners and actually do something about these frauds,” he iterated. “Our recommendation is anytime you get an unwanted phone call or text trying to encourage you to fall victim, go to the CAFC website and report the information online.”

Should fraud occur, Miller mentioned that it is also important to contact the police.

“At the end of the day, if you are out any money, if you fall victim to fraud, do call us. There are sometimes local levels for fraud that are able to successfully recover the money,” he said. “The big thing is, just because the criminals weren’t successful with you doesn’t mean they might not be the next time.”

To visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website, please visit: https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm.