If something sounds too good to be true, more than likely it’s not. Virginia Stoymenoff thought she had the perfect tenant when she rented a unit to Nina Willis in April 2010.
It didn’t take long for her to find out she was wrong.
The cheques for the first two months bounced and a double check on the reference, previous tenant and employer proved that the original information provided was false.
Willis was evicted in August 2011, leaving the landlady with a whopping water, hydro and gas bills in addition to legal costs totalling nearly $29,000.
The victim of tenant fraud was one of two tenants Willis was found guilty of defrauding. In 2015, she was sentenced to six months in jail.
Stoymenoff shared her story at the Toronto Police Service Financial Crimes Fraud Prevention Month launch at police headquarters on March 4.
Fraud Prevention Month is an annual event designed to promote the recognition, prevention and reporting of fraud.
This is the 15th year of the annual campaign.
Financial Crime Unit Insp. Peter Callaghan said fraud doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age, race, culture, socio-economic status or level of education.
“Everyone is vulnerable to the clever story presented by the fraudster in pursuit of their goal in having us hand over our hard-earned money,” he said. “The sad result of fraud is often devastating financial loss and shattered lives.”
The Competition Bureau of Canada (CBC) is the driving force behind Fraud Prevention Week Month.
They work with 125 law enforcement agencies, public and private sector agencies to combat fraud.
“When it comes to fighting fraud, we believe knowledge is power,” said Josephine Palumbo, the CDC Deputy Commissioner with responsibility for Deceptive Marketing Practices. “The more educated Canadians are about the various types of scams, the less likely they are to become victims. For this reason, the Bureau’s goal is to better equip Canadians to fight fraud. Every Canadian can join the fight against fraud. It’s about recognizing the signs, rejecting suspicious claims and reporting them to the authorities.”
The CBC has a number of tools on their website, including The Little Black Book of Scams.
The book’s second edition helps protect businesses from fraud and has a quiz to help Canadians test their knowledge, anti-fraud videos and promotional material tailored to all major social media platforms so Canadians can spread the word.
“This year, the Bureau will also meet with consumer’s and business owners from across the country to give them information and tips they need to recognize, to reject, to report fraud,” added Palumbo.
Representatives from the Ontario Securities Commission, Bank of Canada, Interac and the Insurance Bureau of Canada also attended the launch.
Resources to help consumers detect fraud:
As Canada’s largest urban centre and banking capital, Toronto is the main target of the scams, ranging from letters from purported wealthy Africans offering massive payments to get money out of their countries, to prize offers that involve calling a 1-900 number that ends up costing the consumer far more than the value of their supposed winnings.
On March 28, the Services’ Financial Crimes Unit will collaborate with 12 Division and the Toronto District Catholic School Board to host the fifth edition of, ‘Don’t Be Fooled’.
The initiative was created for students who are active on social media platforms to encourage them to be smart in their use of social media while protecting their money and reputation.