“Hang up the phone. It’s not against the law, you won’t get arrested for hanging up the phone.”
Retired police Sgt. Brian Trainor says staying on the phone is the No. 1 reason that people get duped by fraudsters, despite already knowing many of the warning signs.
“We stay on the phone too long and we get sucked in because these guys are good. They know what they’re doing, they know how to push the buttons. They play on emotions and that’s the key,” Trainor said. “Just get off the phone.”
Fraud Awareness Month takes place in Canada all through March, but fraud occurs every month. Scammers take advantage of thousands of Canadians each year, leading to hundreds of millions of stolen dollars. But the phone line is far from the only source of fraud.
“Anything on the Internet, always look at it with kind of a tainted view that ‘this is probably a scam,’” said Trainor.
The popular image of fraud involves embezzlement, cons and Internet scams that include identity or credit card theft. However, there are several other forms of fraud that are less talked about.
“Right now what’s going on, especially in cities that have universities or trade schools, is the rental frauds on Kijiji or Craigslist,” said Trainor. “The crook has taken pictures of a place that’s for rent and is posing as the owner or the landlord, and people are going online and seeing them site unseen. (The fraudster) is asking for first and last month’s rent, and (the parents) want to hold it for their kids that are coming to university in the city. They part with $3,000 or something like that and, of course, (the fraudster) doesn’t own the place at all.”
As a fraud detective for five years and city policeman for 27 years, Trainor witnessed his fair share of cases. Now that he’s retired, Trainor owns and operates Trainor Communications, which works to educate the public about financial abuse and schemes, as well as cyber-bullying.
He said the two demographics most targeted by fraudsters are seniors, for their unawareness of current scams, and young adults in their 20s, for their impulsiveness.
Common tips that help prevent against becoming a fraud victim include using strong passwords, not giving up personal information online or over the phone and not downloading any software without absolute certainty that it’s safe. And, of course, the golden rule states that if something looks too good to be true – it probably is.
That rule especially applies to handling money through a wire.
“You can’t track a wire. A wire can be picked up anywhere in the world,” he said. “So if (anyone) says ‘wire me the money,’ that’s a scam.”
For fraud to be seriously fought off, Trainor said that the telecommunications companies must step up their efforts collectively.
“There has to be some onus on the telecommunications to put in place different kinds of antivirus software. I just think that the stakeholders that deal with fraud need to get around the table and start discussing these things as a group, instead of having all these one-off things that don’t really get the results that they want.”
Until that time comes, though, Fraud Awareness Month, Trainor Communications and other organizations continue to educate Canadians on how to protect themselves against fraudulent schemes.