I became quite concerned this week after RCMP K Division sent out a press release regarding telephone fraudsters calling people and trying to rip them off.
The press release was based around a scam that’s been going on for years: fraudsters imitating federal government departments, including Revenue Canada and the RCMP. In my opinion they choose departments that can be intimidating for people and the fact that the average person usually wants to cooperate with the government and not make waves.
The call or sometimes voicemail or message includes threats that you either owe money to the federal government or there is an arrest warrant out for your arrest and that all these matters can be straightened out by paying fines, in this case using Bitcoin money.
Please remember Revenue Canada, if they are pursuing someone for an unpaid tax bill, will usually start through the mail, not nasty, threatening phone calls. To suddenly get a threatening call out of the blue from Revenue Canada stating you owe them money should set off warning bells right there.
As well, if a warrant is out for your arrest I don’t ever recall hearing anyone state that the police left a voicemail for them requesting payment to throw out the arrest warrant. If the warrant is issued it usually means the police i tend to arrest and book you, not let you go after a payment is made. Also, I don’t ever recall anyone saying the police left them a voicemail about their arrest warrant. As far as I know, an arrest warrant is usually something handled in person by the police.
So if you get a message threatening you with an arrest warrant but noting you clear it up by (insert payment method here) someone, somewhere in this big ole world is trying to rip you off.
Fraudsters are becoming a bit more sophisticated in their approach, too. In years past the voicemails may have been left by criminals based in foreign countries, and most of them had a very bad grasp of spoken English. This was a prime tip-off you were the victim of fraud; some fraudsters have tweaked their approach by using a voice software to leave a computer-generated voice similar to something you’d hear on a public address system.
Even more concerning is the fraudster’s ability to “spoof” actual government phone numbers. If you have call display, a fraudster typically used to show as “unknown caller,” “anonymous” or an American state name as the fraudster bounced the call through foreign countries in an effort to avoid police.
Now they’re using sophisticated software to make the words RCMP or “Revenue Canada” show up on your call display, so you can’t even trust that now.
As long as you remember that government departments usually don’t call in automated voices, threaten you and ask for money, you should be okay. In a worst case scenario, you could call Revenue Canada or the RCMP and ask if you’re in trouble.
But don’t feel bad about instantly hanging up the phone on what you suspect to be a fraudster. They’re trying to steal your money, you don’t owe them anything.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.