How do you protect loved ones from online scams? Communication may be the key | #phishing | #scams


About a month after Clair Elden’s elderly mother activated her cellphone, she started getting text messages claiming to be from Amazon. Then she received a voicemail threatening her with legal action, saying she owed the online retail giant around $10,000 for orders. 
 
It wasn’t hard for Elden of Dunan, B.C., to deduce that something was fishy. 
 
“My mom doesn’t have a computer,” Elden said. “She doesn’t do anything online.”

 Elden says they called RCMP, who gave them a number to report phone scams. She also tried to contact Amazon and but got no response. 
 
She said RCMP told her to call her mother’s cellphone provider to block the number and she hasn’t been bothered since. 
 
Vanessa Iafolla, a financial crimes researcher at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, N.S., and an anti-fraud consultant, praised how Elden handled her mother’s situation, being proactive and keeping the lines of communication open. 
 
“Talking to people, having open conversations, asking questions, this is the kind of thing that will help people avoid being victimized in the first place,” she said.

Elden’s experience also highlights how difficult it can be to get the attention of authorities when it comes to scams at a time when fraudulent messages appear to be on the rise.  

Reporting cases to institutions like the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is important, but “police don’t really do much and they don’t have the capacity to do much,” she said.

ICBC scam takes advantage of knowledge gap

B.C.’s public auto insurer recently issued a warning about fake text messages regarding the province’s new gas relief rebate, a $110 one-time payment to offset high fuel prices.
 
ICBC says the messages are fake and is asking people to delete them.

Iafolla says the recent ICBC scam is a perfect example of how opportunistic fraudsters can be.

“People don’t know really what’s going on in terms of how the program will roll out or what the expectations for getting their money will be,” she said. 

“In that gap of knowledge, that’s where scammers try to get in and exploit their victims.”

There are also examples of fake text messages claiming to be companies, such as cellphone providers, reporting funds being credited back to accounts.

The best defence against such messages, Iafolla says, is simply to pause before clicking on a link.

“Stopping and thinking about what’s happening and not responding in the moment, that’s key,” she said. “Scammers operate on a principle of immediacy, so they want to get you without thinking, just to say, ‘Oh, great, I’ll take that money back.'”

Younger adults can also fall victim

Fraudsters often prey on seniors, but Iafolla says younger people aren’t immune to online scams, particularly ones around shopping or dating. 

“Younger adults who might also believe themselves to be quite savvy around the internet and scamming, they’re not at any less risk of being exploited than anyone else. It’s just the kind of scam that will get them.” 

As with seniors, younger adults can benefit from open communication with friends about online shopping sites or too-slick online dating profiles, Iafolla said.

Pausing before responding remains key. 

“Take the time,” she said. “Talk to people and there’s no rush. If a company really wants your money, a legitimate company is going to wait for it. Even if it’s 24 hours, 48 hours, a week, they will wait for your money because they want it.”



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