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Fraudsters preying on people's insecurities in the midst of pandemic

GSPS warning Sudburians about scams that have been cropping up of late

It has been an ongoing trend for fraudsters to attempt to take advantage of people’s fears and insecurities during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Greater Sudbury Police Service is providing tips and advice to help Sudburians protect themselves against different forms of fraud.

One common scam occurring across Ontario has been electricity disconnection scams.

 Most recently, GSPS received a call from a community member reporting that they received a phone call from an individual representing Ottawa Hydro, advising the community member that they were late in paying hydro bills and required immediate payment in bitcoin or else the community member’s hydro service would be terminated.

Remember: Legitimate businesses, organizations or government agencies will NOT request payment via bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards.

Furthermore, electricity utilities across Ontario have stopped disconnections for non-payment while the COVID-19 crisis continues. While overdue accounts will still receive notification, utilities will NOT phone and threaten immediate disconnection. 

The Ontario Energy Board recently issued a consumer alert on this topic recently. 

While offices of many utilities are currently closed to public traffic, they are still answering customer phone calls.

Protect yourself - beware of unsolicited calls, emails or texts requesting urgent action or payment.  Always call your service provider directly using the phone number on your regular bill or statement.

Report fraud or attempted fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. 

Know Your Mover: 

The Greater Sudbury Police Service encourages you to know your mover. The police service recently received complaints regarding fraudulent moving companies and brokerages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether you are moving across town or across province, choosing a mover should not be taken lightly. Finding a trusted and reliable mover is even more important during the current COVID-19 pandemic. As with other sectors, the moving industry is also experiencing those who are taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers.

Common complaints include improper insurance protection, damaged or missing items, bills that were higher than estimates, late deliveries or failure to deliver items and in some cases, goods held hostage for additional payments.

Unfortunately, brokerages or fly-by-night and no-name "truck-for-hire" types can take advantage of the fact that consumers are under emotional, financial and time pressures when moving. 

This is why it’s important when entrusting someone you don’t know with your life belongings, that you do some fact checking and not always go with the cheapest price. This could be the costly move.

Tips from the Canadian Association for Movers (CAM) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB):

If you do have concerns about a company and its practices, you are encouraged to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and Canadian Association for Movers; this can help track companies for others and provide you with guidance and possible resolutions.

If you have been the victim of a moving scam you can report it to the GSPS via our online reporting system.

If you need assistance finding a reputable moving company or have questions or complaints regarding a company and their process you can contact both at:

Canadian Association for Movers

Toll Free: 1-866-860-0065

Better Business Bureau

Telephone: 613‑237‑4856

Toll Free: 1‑877‑859‑8566

Counterfeit Money:

If you are a business owner or an employee of a business and you believe that you may have counterfeit money in your possession, please complete the Request for Analysis of Counterfeit Money Form before mailing the completed form and the counterfeit money to:

190 Brady Street

Sudbury, ON

P3E 1C7 

How to protect yourself: 

  • Remember, legitimate telemarketers have nothing to hide. But scammers will say anything to take your money. Always be cautious and remember you have the right to check out any caller by requesting written information, a call back number, references and time to think over the offer or request.
  • Always be careful about providing confidential personal information, especially banking or credit card details, unless you are certain the company is legitimate. And, if you have doubts about a caller, your best defense is to simply hang up. It's not rude – it's smart.
  • If you're in doubt, it's wise to ask the advice of a close friend or relative, or even your banker. Rely on people you can trust. Remember, you can stop phone fraud - just hang up.

If you suspect a relative or friend has been targeted, check if the following is occurring: 

  • A marked increase in the amount of mail with too-good-to-be-true offers.
  • Frequent calls offering get-rich-quick schemes or valuable awards, or numerous calls for donations to unfamiliar charities.
  • A sudden inability to pay normal bills.
  • Requests for loans or cash.
  • Banking records that show cheques or withdrawals made to unfamiliar companies.
  • Secretive behaviour regarding phone calls.

If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, please report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. 

Bitcoin Scam: 

Greater Sudbury Police Service has received numerous complaints from people being targeted in an email scam where cyber criminals demand to be paid in bitcoin. They may claim to have stolen your password; to have hacked your computer and/or webcam; and threaten to release compromising footage of you if you do not immediately pay them in bitcoin. 

These emails vary in subject matter but have similar features:

  • The subject line includes a password that you may have previously used or currently use
  • The attacker claims they have used that password to hack your computer, install malware, and record video of you through your webcam
  • The attacker says they will send video of you to your contacts unless you send them bitcoin. Most often this demand varies from $1,200 or $1,600 worth.

Home Renovation Scams 

If you're considering home renovation projects such as new windows, siding, shingles, deck etc., do your due diligence before selecting a contractor. Prior to signing a contract and providing a down payment, research the company and/or individual offering the service. This could be easily accomplished by entering a business name or an individual's name into the search engine (i.e. Google) on your computer.

You may also want to check the company's Facebook page (or other social media profiles such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.).

Visit the Northern Ontario Better Business Bureau website for updates on business scams and alerts. 

Do not sign a contract or give a deposit without checking your contractor.

1. Know Your Rights.

2. Do Your Research.

3. Verify Applicable Licensing.

4. Ask for Identification and References.

5. Obtain Everything in Writing.

6. If You Feel Uncomfortable, End the Interaction. 

Identity Theft: 

Identity theft is the fastest-growing type of fraud. Protect your precious personal information. Ask all marketing, research or charity callers for:

  • Detailed, written information that you can check yourself.
  • Time to think about the offer. Scam artists pressure you for an answer, saying the offer will expire or go to the next person if you don't act now.
  • Valid references and the means to contact them.
  • A call back number. But beware that a crook can give you a number where a colleague is standing by to finish taking your money.

Thousands of Canadians are defrauded each year. Scam artists are up to date and well-organized. They use the latest trends and sophisticated techniques such as:

  • Professional marketing materials
  • Well-crafted and researched telephone scripts, which are traded among criminals
  • Friendly tone and "Generous" offers
  • Believable answers for your tough questions
  • Ability to impersonate legitimate businesses, charities and causes
  • Expertise to use your own emotions against you

If the Canada Revenue Agency calls and informs you that you owe them money, they will NOT request payment via bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or iTunes cards.

If you receive a letter in the mail, an email or a phone call advising that you've won a free trip, cruise or large sum of money – you probably didn't. 

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true - it probably is. The best way to protect yourself is to stay informed on the common tactics that fraudsters will try to use.

Shred unwanted personal documents such as transaction records, credit applications, insurance forms, cheques, financial statements and tax returns.

If you or someone you know has been victim of a fraud or scam, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.