A long-running and widespread phone scam has once again hit the Coast.
The scam involves telephone callers claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and making false threats designed to scare people into sending money to pay off non-existent tax-debts.
Const. Marcel Midlane of the Ucluelet RCMP said police have received several reports of this scam and that one local man was recently taken for roughly $3,000.
He said it is unlikely this money will be returned.
“Tracking down people in these cases is often quite difficult…they could be anywhere. As soon as you get behind a computer screen you’re invisible. Sometimes we can track them, sometimes we can’t, it depends how sophisticated the fraud network is,” Midlane said.
“These people are pretty crafty, that’s how they make their money, and the public loses millions and millions of dollars every year to these sorts of fraudulent scams.”
In 2014, 14,472 Canadians fell victim to scams compared to 15,056 in 2013, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s most recent annual statistical report. While this decline in numbers may be encouraging, victims are being taken for higher amounts as scammers stole over $74 million in 2014, up from $59 million in 2013.
That works out to about $5,000 per victim in 2014 and Midlane said falling prey to a scam could have financially devastating results, especially for seniors.
“That might be their life savings,” he said.
He urges locals to read up on potential scams and never send money to anyone without being absolutely sure of where it’s going.
“If there’s something fishy about it, then there’s probably something wrong,” he said. “Educate yourself; there’s lots of information online about fraud and about some of the scams that are going on.”
He added locals should protect their personal information as diligently as their dollars and he encourages anyone who thinks they have been targeted by a scammer to call the RCMP detachment at 250-726-7773.
Calling the police helped save Ucluelet local Bob Gagnon from becoming a victim.
Gagnon told the Westerly he recently received three threatening voicemails from a CRA scammer.
“They actually threatened me that if I didn’t pay, or didn’t call this number that they gave me, that they were going to press charges against me,” he said.
“It really bothered me. I was having a panic attack after the first call and I figured, ‘Now what did I do?’ It upset me and it took me a long time, the whole day, just to settle down. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and when they threatened me I figured this can’t be right.”
Gagnon was wary of the caller’s claims because he’s never had a problem with his taxes so he called the cops.
“I was told by the RCMP that it was a scam so that really brought my blood pressure back down again,” he said.
Locals are reminded that the CRA will never call to request a prepaid credit card, information about your passport, health card or drivers license, leave personal information on your answering machine or request that you leave any personal information on another answering machine.
Anyone who receives a suspicious call from a person claiming to be from the CRA is urged to hang up and dial 1-800-959-8281 to speak with the CRA directly.
Locals can read up on scams at www.antifraudcentre.ca.