Fraudulent phone calls are so prevalent nowadays that you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has not experienced these annoying calls where they try to scam you out of your hard-earned money. Perhaps the most well-known phone scam happened to Canadian residents in November 2018, involving a phoney company posing as the CRA. The company would call individuals and threatened to have them arrested for unpaid taxes. The intimidation continues until the person forwarded thousands of dollars to a fake account.
Phone scammers can be very convincing, but here are a few smart tips for how to spot a phone con artist and what to do about it!
Warning Signs of a Scam:
Unfamiliar phone numbers.
Most phones are equipped with caller display, even if the caller is not on your contact list. If the call display comes up reading “unknown” or is coming from another country, they may be trying to conceal their identity.
Requests for personal information about you.
Scammers will try to gain your trust by claiming they are with the government, a large financial institution or a major company. Legitimate companies already have all your information on file and will not call you and ask for credit card or banking details, and never for a password to an account.
High pressure and scare tactics.
Scammers try to frighten you with threats of legal action or fines. There is also a strong urgency for you to do what they say immediately. If you actually did owe money to a company, they would have given you several written notices before calling you.
You must pay for shipping to collect a prize.
The caller may tell you that you’ve won a free vacation or some other large prize but they need your credit card information to send it to you by mail. In Canada it is illegal to charge fees as a requirement of collecting your contest winnings. Besides, if they have enough budget to give away vacations, the definitely wouldn’t have to shake you down for a $1 postage stamp to send it to you.
They will pay you if you help them.
This is a classic scam where the caller will tell you that a rich person in another country needs help getting his millions out of the country and if you give them your banking information to do so, they will split the money with you. Wealthy people have enough resources to get help and do not need to troll around trying to get help from a total stranger. Hang up right away.
How to Handle a Suspicious Call
- Don’t pick up calls from an unknown or suspicious phone number. Let it go to voicemail.
- If you pick up and there is a robotic voice on the other line, hang up. Real companies usually use real people to make customer service calls.
- Never give away any financial information or personal information to a caller. In situations when you call a company, they may ask for verification details, but don’t give it to any caller who unexpectedly calls you.
- If the caller is threatening and intimidating you, hang up right away. The longer they have you on the line, the more likely they are to break you down. Disconnect and take away their power.
- If you are suspicious, ask them to give you a number where you can call them back. Most scammers will hang up at this point, for fear of being exposed as a fraud. If they do give you a number, don’t call back.
How to Report a Suspicious Call
- If you receive a suspicious call from someone who says they are from a company who does business with you, hang up and notify the fraud reporting division of that company. This will alert them to any similar claims and put a high alert on your account activity.
- Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) is the central agency in Canada that collects information and criminal intelligence marketing fraud, advance fee fraud, internet fraud and identification theft complaints.