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COLUMN: Scammer tricks growing more sophisticated

In this week's column Wendy bemoans the scammers that infiltrate our daily lives, but she lives by the manta of 'block, delete and report'
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Like the pesky insects they are, spring brings out scammers.

Not a day goes by we are not affected by somebody trying to steal our personal information.

I naively believed this is was the kind of thing our government was supposed to protect us from, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. If they are trying, it doesn't seem to be working.

It struck me recently that scammers have infiltrated every part of our lives. The worst part is that it has completely changed the way we live and react.

Take, for example, door-to-door canvassers. Most people don’t care for them, in general, but in recent years I simply do not open my door to anyone at any time.

I don’t care if you have a clipboard and a lanyard, no entry.

Unless I am expecting a delivery, I just let the doorbell ring.

Maybe it's too many Lifetime true-crime movies, but I don’t trust anyone in my space. Nobody is ever coming inside to check my water quality, my window seals or the condition of my ducts.

I also refuse to answer my phone unless I recognize the phone number or a message is left with callback information.

Chances are someone is calling to report our credit card has had a mysterious charge on it and they just want to verify it is legitimate.

I have learned from past experience to hang up and call the credit card company directly to see if there has been any shenanigans. Usually, it's just a 'phishing' exercise to see if they can get your personal information and card number.

That’s what I always do now. No matter what agency is suggesting I didn’t pay a bill, or I owe more money or I need to update information, I call the company directly to sort it out.

But here’s the part that really bothers me — the responsibility falls to me, the poor, unsuspecting sap. It is always the potential victim forced to do the research and spent endless time on hold waiting for service.

Last year, I think I had to get a new credit card no less than three times because it had been compromised. If you’ve had that experience, you understand what a pain it is to send the new number to all the companies that need to know.

As we head into income tax season, be prepared for the notifications that appear to come from Revenue Canada suggesting either you need to contact them regarding your filing or they have a refund for you. They rarely have a refund for you!

I figure if the taxation office knows everything about me, it can figure out my bank account number and direct deposit any alleged refund.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, as of Dec. 31, 2023 there were 62,365 reports of fraud, 41,111 victims of fraud and $554 million lost to fraud.

On the website, there are a few ways to detect a scam:

  • Demanding immediate payment
  • Requesting payment with cryptocurrency or gift cards
  • Using threatening language
  • Sending you a link to click on
  • Asking for personal or financial information.

I have been tricked by the one where a delivery service emails to advise a parcel could not be delivered and for a couple bucks they will reschedule another delivery.

How do you pay that small fee? On your credit card and — bam! — then they have your number.

The scammers are so sophisticated, too. Usually, I can spot some fakes with bad grammar and poor spelling, but others have properly copied the company logos.

Recently, I had not paid a legitimate bill because I didn’t recognize the company name change. It took an email and two phone calls before I realized it was the real deal.

Again, I blame scammers for causing many of us to think everything is a con.

My point is these criminals are impacting our freedom. They are changing the way we live and react and even interact with others.

Don’t even get me started on romance scams. Imagine the disappointment to learn those handsome military doctors on Facebook are possibly fake.

So, they don’t find my profile picture gorgeous and my statuses delightfully engaging?

Nope, the only engagement will be block, delete and report.

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About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
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