Phone-related frauds are on the increase and Toronto Police is reminding the public to be vigilant.
A total of five Torontonians have suffered combined losses of $5.1 million through the fraud and investigators believe there may be more victims throughout Canada.
At a press conference at police headquarters on February 9, Detective Sergeant Ian Nichol said fraudsters posing as retailers have been contacting members of the public, alerting them to a fraud in progress that involves the use of their credit card account.
“After the initial conversation, the intended victim may be advised to dial 9-1-1 in order to alert police of the credit card fraud that is supposedly in progress,” he said. “The victim may also be advised to contact their financial institution in order to protect their financial interests. The victim will hang up and do so, being unaware that the original caller has not disconnected.”
Nichol said the victim believes they have contacted police via 9-1-1 and/or their financial institution. Instead, they have actually being re-directed to an imposter posing as a 9-1-1 call-taker or bank employee.
“The ‘call-taker’ will speak to the victim and connect them to yet another imposter posing as a police investigator or will refer the victim to a ‘bank investigator’ either by connecting them directly or asking them to hang up and call the number located on the back of their bank card,” he pointed out. “The victim will comply, again being unaware that the original caller has not actually disconnected. Ultimately, the victim will be urged to attend their bank branch and immediately transfer funds to a specific account that is supposedly intended to safeguard their funds until the ‘investigation’ is complete.”
Nichol said the scheme may vary in detail from person to person depending on the circumstance.
“The scheme appears to be directed at persons using their home-based phones,” he said. “There is no particular phone provider associated to the victims.”
He also said there is no specific demographic that’s been targeted.
“It appears to be a true mass-marketing scheme in the sense that there are certainly hundreds of thousands of attempts that have been made,” said Nichol.
Based on evidence, police believe the scheme is being conducted nationwide and hundreds of thousands of people have been targeted. Investigators also said there is evidence to indicate that in certain cases, the callers may already possess some of the banking particulars of the intended victim.
Nichol reminded the public that 9-1-1 is for emergencies where persons or property are at risk and that 9-1-1 call takers will not forward their call to a police investigator.
“If you are in doubt about the security of your personal funds, attend any branch of your financial institution and make enquiries in person,” he added. “Financial institutions will never advise you to transfer funds to external accounts for security reasons. When contacted via phone by persons claiming to be police officers, bank employees or officials, take reasonable steps to ensure their claim is truthful.”
Nichol also warned the public that they shouldn’t assume that phone numbers appearing on call display screens are accurate.
“Readily available ‘call-spoofing’ technology is frequently utilised by criminals to provide inaccurate call information,” he said.