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Seaside Safety Tips…

Telephone Use

Each year, people from all areas of the globe fall victim to telephone scams.  Typically they are promised rewards in exchange for personal financial information, or they’re threatened into providing this information - which causes the victim to respond out of panic.  It may sound hard to believe that this often happens, but the occurrence is extremely common, and it’s the elderly who are most often the victims of these phone scams.

At Seaside Communications, we’re not just a local telephone service provider - we are all members of the communities we serve.  And to protect our customers, we have compiled a list of common Telephone scams that everyone should be aware of. 

Free Vacations and Prizes

Everyone loves to win something big, and scammers know this.  In this scam, the victim receives a call to notify them that they’ve won an amazing prize, like a free cruise, or a free trip to the Bahamas!  In their excitement, the victim is tricked into giving away personal information without stopping to consider that it’s probably too good to be true.  Another variation of the scam involves an incredibly cheap all-inclusive vacation package that only requires a simple but immediate credit card transaction (while the offer still stands).

What’s important to remember here is that, although the best things in life may be free, vacations and cruises are usually not!  Even legitimate contests and sweepstakes that do offer free give-aways are usually (a) widely known of and (b) something you’ve entered and not random offers from out of the blue.

Whenever you receive a call like this, unfortunately the best course of action is to simply hang up without providing any information of any kind.

Medical Alert/Scams Targeting Seniors

Sadly, seniors are often the target of telephone scams.  As such, many scams are tailored towards our seniors, like the false promise of free medical alert systems. Medical alert scams are similar to the vacation give-away scams, as they are seeking to steal personal information.  These scams are common, so just like the bogus vacation and cruise packages, it’s best just to hang up.

Phishing Scams

Similar to Internet phishing scams, telephone phishing scams occur when the scam artist calls the victim pretending to be a person or organization they’re not, like a major bank, or the Microsoft Corporation.  In the Microsoft scam, the scammer calls to inform the victim that a virus has been detected on their computer, and that they can talk the victim through a process which allows the alleged tech support team to access the computer (in order to fix the problem).

The fact is Microsoft will never call you regarding an issue with your computer.  These scammers are either guiding you through the process of installing malicious software onto your computer, or they are indeed gaining access for the ultimate purpose of stealing your personal information.

Whenever you get this call from “Microsoft”, ask the caller for their identification and tell them that you’ll be in contact with them later.  As with any phishing scam, you can call Microsoft (or whatever company they’ve claimed to be representing) to confirm the call.

Fake Charities

There are many different charity scams in existence.  Some of them claim to be local organizations like your local fire department, while others pull even harder on the heart strings, like claiming they are collecting for Cancer research.  Once the scam artist has convinced the victim of the legitimacy of the charity, the next step is to request their credit card information so that the victim’s kind donation can be made.

In situations where donations to local organizations are being requested, be sure to ask the caller for details.  For instance, which branch is the donation being made for?  What is the caller’s name and involvement with the organization?  What will the money be used for?  Even then, never provide any information to the caller.  Phone the organization first to verify the claim.

In the case of calls claiming to be charities for disaster relief, cancer research, etc., it’s important not to give in to your emotions - this is exactly what the scam artist is hoping for.  Always remember to do your research before donating.  The best way to donate to your favourite charitable organization is to reach out to them directly, and avoid making unsolicited donations.

Loan Scams

Auto loans, small business loans, payday loans, and student loans are all types of loan scams that a scam artist may use to con you out of your personal financial information.

Be suspicious of cold calls that offer you money and ask for your personal information.  No one will offer you a loan ‘out of the blue’ if you haven’t made previous arrangements for such a loan.  When you receive a call like this, hang up!

Debt Collectors / Lower Your Debt

Let’s face it - almost every one of us is in debt.  So chances are, even though the caller really knows nothing about you, they are correct when they approach you about the debt you are in.

In this scam, the victim is tricked into providing their personal information to the supposed debt collector to arrange for payments to the creditors.  Similarly, a fraudulent agency may phone offering to lower the person’s debt, and the victim’s identification is needed to set everything up.

Even legitimate debt collectors do not have the right to phone and harass you about the debt you owe.  So never under any circumstances give out your personal information to one of these callers and never send payment when requested.  Get the name and number of the debt collector and inform them that you’ll phone back at another time that’s more convenient.  Better yet - just hang up.

CRA Calls / Fake Arrest Warrants

A common scam recently has been the Canada Revenue Agency scam.  In this scam, “the CRA” informs the victim that due to outstanding back taxes, a warrant has been issued for their arrest unless immediate action is taken to pay the balance in full.  The purpose of this threat is to create a sense of panic.  To avoid consequences, the victim immediately reacts without thinking and follows the instructions given to settle their alleged debt.

In reality, the CRA will never request immediate payment from you over the phone.  They will typically work with you to arrange for repayment of any heavily outstanding balances through a reasonable repayment plan.  A variation often involves an electronic sounding text-to-speech voice instead of a real person, so this is another indication that someone is attempting to scam you out of your money.  

This threat can be ignored, but for peace of mind you can always contact the CRA to verify the call.

Other variations of the ‘arrest warrant’ threat can include calls from fraudulent law enforcement agencies for alleged minor crimes that the victim may not necessarily remember or realize they’d committed.  It may just be common sense, but remember: the police don’t call people up on the phone and tell them they’re under arrest.  Again, do not make any payment to these individuals.  If you need the peace of mind, contact your local authorities to verify the call.

Grandchild Injured or In Trouble

An excellent way to target the elderly is to hit them where it hurts most - your Grandchild has been hurt, or they are in some serious trouble and need your help!

As common with many scams, the scammer ascertains certain details about the Grandson or Granddaughter just by gauging the victim with some basic questions, which the victim inadvertently provides the answers to.

Once the scam artist has a bit of a back story to work from, they then proceed to tell the victim that they are with local law enforcement (or they are an appointed lawyer speaking on the Grandchild’s behalf) and that the Grandchild has gotten into some trouble, and needs bail money sent to avoid incarceration.  The Grandchild is allegedly afraid to notify the parents, so they turn to the Grandparents for help (who will often give without question).

The first thing to be aware of is that no local law enforcement will ever call to request an emailed sum of money for bail (or an over-the-phone credit card transaction).  Although some variations of this scam have gone so far as to have a young accomplice impersonate the Grandchild on the phone, the law enforcement department allegedly involved should be contacted to verify the story (the police will then not only debunk the story, but they’ll have the attempted crime on file).

Reference Material for your home, school or office

Please click on the graphic below for an additional sheet of important information that can be printed and kept near your telephone for reference.

Phone Safety