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Power of Attorney Abuse

POA ABUSE IS ONE OF THE MOST DEVASTATING TYPES OF THEFT/FRAUD A SENIOR CAN EXPERIENCE. TO HAVE A FAMILY MEMBER ROB YOU OF YOUR LIFE SAVINGS DESTROYS YOUR FAITH IN MANKIND. BELOW ARE VARIOUS ARTICLES I HAVE WRITTEN THAT DEAL WITH THIS INSIPID CRIME.

Power of Attorney Abuse

by Sgt. R. B. Trainor (retired)

Capacity Travesty

Emma struggled with her finances – always had – always would. Money was never ending   merry-go-round. Raised by good parents, and never lacking of anything, Emma viewed fulfilling her desires as something to be taken care of now rather than later. Can’t pay for it? Charge it. It was a pleasant surprise when Aunt Tillie asked Emma to be her Enduring Power of Attorney. Emma was familiar with the POA designation. Her sister performed the same duties for their parents.

Before long dementia stole Tillie’s ability to perform simple tasks such as banking, and had confined her to a 24 hour care facility.  As Emma looked over her aunt’s financial records her lips parted and she let out a soft whistle. Her future was all but guaranteed.

Emma cashed in a $100,000.00 GIC Aunt Tillie owned. The money was deposited into Emma’s personal bank account after providing the bank with a copy of the POA. The fact they both banked at the same institution made money transfers a simple task.

Within the year the hundred grand was gone spent on clothing, gas, vehicles, and trips. Emma began writing cheques to herself for $5000.00 depositing them into her own account; very convenient for Emma, and for the branch manager.

She applied to borrow $100,000.00 against Tillie’s 5 and 10 year GICs she couldn’t get her hands on. It was during a routine check into her application that the manager found the trail of crumbs, a trail leading him directly to the police.

It was a simple matter of matching withdrawals and deposits between Emma and Tillie’s accounts. An attempt at interviewing Aunt Tillie proved beyond her capacity. The staff told the detective Tillie never left the facility. This was an obvious case of financial abuse of a senior by the attorney.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

The above illustration is real. It happened and I was involved in the investigation. This is a perfect example of financial abuse of the elderly. Section 331 of the Criminal Code of Canada addresses the problem very succinctly, Theft by Persons holding Power of Attorney.

Between 2001 and 2006 while assigned as a detective sergeant with the Saskatoon Police Commercial Crime Unit, I investigated frauds targeting seniors including telephone scams, identity theft, and Internet fraud. In all the scams I investigated, I developed a passion, not just an affinity for, but a real passion for Power of Attorney abuse cases.

I began to lecture seniors about the dangers of attorney’s out of control, and attended conferences such as the 1st Annual International Elder Abuse Conference in Vancouver. It was there I made the acquaintance of many people concerned with protecting the rights of the elderly. Through these relationships I felt a ground swell of activity begin to fester across Canada.

While presenting to groups of seniors around the Vancouver Lower Mainland, I was shocked to hear over and over again from seniors that they have taken their complaints of their attorney stealing from them to the police only to be told the matter was civil and not criminal. “Go see a lawyer,” they were told. I was baffled. Theft by Persons Holding Power of Attorney…how was this civil. Theft!?

I managed to get on the biggest radio talk show in Vancouver, The Bill Good Show on CKNW. With an average audience of 1,000,000 listeners between 11am and noon I scolded the many police agencies in the area. “How dare you turn these victims away,” I demanded. “Do your job. This is not a civil matter. This is criminal. Take the report and do the investigation. Read section 331 CCC and tell me how this is civil.”

I now know of several other detectives engaged in POA abuse cases including the Hamilton Regional Police, and the Halifax Police.

The main problem in POA abuse cases is that the attorney operates in complete anonymity. There is no one watching the grantor’s money as a rule. Money goes in and money goes out, but no one knows how much is spent and where. This loophole needs to be closed. There needs to be accountability on the part of the attorney.

In answer I would suggest every POA document must be registered with the provincial Public Guardian and Trustee where the information would be maintained on a computer data bank. Such documentation would include:

-who the grantor is
-who the attorney is
-type of POA
-date instituted
-date acted upon
-date of loss of capacity
-banking information for both
-accountability clauses with due dates for financial records filing once yearly

The attorney would have to send in a financial statement including monthly bank records for the past year to the PGT. At the least, this would accomplish several things:

-it would keep most attorneys honest
-it would allow the PGT to recognize when one person holds several attorney positions

Conclusion

After investigating many cases of POA abuse, lecturing across Canada at various conventions and conferences (such as last years national CBA Elder Law Section Conference in Ottawa), I realized my passion was in preventing the financial abuse of seniors.

Spending time investigating such crimes was necessary however — given the police service’s limited resources — my ability to give public lectures was severely curtailed. I wanted to hit the road and warn people, not sit in an office. After some debate, I decided to retire to pursue my passion.

Over the past year I have given hundreds of public lectures across the country on scams. I speak on talk radio shows frequently about the latest scams making the rounds. Because of my radio shows, I give three talks a week, and entertain half a dozen phone calls from the public about either phone calls, or mail they have received deemed to be suspicious.

I’ve written a book titled STOP FRAUD released in September of 2007. In my book I cover 12 scams including home improvement scams, POA abuse, and Internet fraud in the 12 chapters. I offer tips on staying safe, and ways to recognize a scam.

To have Sgt. Trainor speak to your staff, members or community please contact him at:

Sgt. Brian Trainor (ret)     (306) 291-3259      btrainor@sasktel.net      www.trainorcommunications.com

Brian Trainor was a police officer with the Saskatoon Police Service for 27 years. He attained the rank of Sergeant, and embarked on a 5 year stint in the Commercial Crime Unit where he investigated crimes targeting seniors. A published author, and nationally recognized fraud expert and public speaker, he has appeared on talk radio shows speaking on fraud issues as well as CTV and Global television news casts. Sgt. Trainor (ret.) gives public lectures to groups weekly about fraud prevention traveling from Charlottetown to Vancouver, and points in between. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and in no way represent legal advice. Always speak to a lawyer to obtain professional legal advice. 

Sgt. Trainor can be reached at btrainor@sasktel.net or at (306) 291-3259 or at www.trainorcommunications.com

P.O.A. ABUSE: CIVIL OR CRIMINAL?

Sgt. R. B. Trainor (ret)

The drizzle cascaded blurring images as though seen through cellophane covering the downtown with a fine mist. A tiny woman well into her eighties trudged down the glistening sidewalk. Dressed in a yellow plastic poncho (two sizes to big for her), black rubber boots with their obligatory red toes and heels, she clutched a large blue umbrella as though it was a life preserver, not so much to keep dry, bit more as a pole to lean against; a support. She headed to police station on the next corner, a building she was not accustomed to visiting.

The front door was a slab of glass though it may as well have been a solid wall of bricks. She didn’t want to involve the police. Her stomach ached as did her head, pounding and butterflies, hammering interspersed with flutter. The royal blue lettering painted across the glass caused her to pause. “Police,” she whispered, and took a deep breath. Unsure, she turned to face the hill she had just come down, and wondered if she was doing the right thing. Perhaps it would be better to leave well enough alone. After all, he only steals my money, she thought. He doesn’t beat me, and I have a nice bedroom.

Thoughts tumbled through her mind like boulders ricocheting down a mountain slope, smashing into each other, fragmenting into smaller, faster pieces. She shook her umbrella, pulled it closed, then pushed through the front door before her courage abandoned her.

Once inside, her anxiety built. Walls, stark white; the linoleum, dark grey and spreading across the floor like a sea of mud waiting to swallow her whole give her a feeling of impending doom. I should leave, she thought, and turned to walk out.

A voice, that of a man spoke loudly, clearly, authoritatively. “May I help you?” he asked.

It was as though the sound of his words had erected a barrier between the glass door in front, and her hand that grasped for the door handle. She froze, staring at her extended fingers oh so close to gripping the knob, so close to escaping into the wind and rain, and yet so far. Frozen in time. What to do? What to do?

Caught like an animal in a spotlight, she turned to face the voice. A very young police officer, vestiges of pimples across a chin that needed shaving merely once a week looked at her. He stood at the counter with his hands pressed flat against the grey Formica competing with the floor for space. “Is there something I can help you with,” he pressed.

She looked into his face and saw kindness and hope. His eyes had yet to be ravaged by the filth of man as had so many before him in an occupation known for its victims both in uniform and out. “Yes,” she answered in a hushed tone, and approached the counter.

“My son has been stealing my money,” she began, locking her gaze on the gold badge pinned to his chest.

“I see. And how old is your son?” the officer asked.

“Fifty-two,” she answered gathering the strength to look the man in the eyes.

Grabbing a report form, the officer began to fill in the details; her name, address, and date of birth. “Do you really need that?” she asked. “Eighty-three.”

“No I don’t live alone. I live with my son and his wife.”

“He’s been stealing my pension money as well as my late husband’s pension money since I gave him power of attorney.”

The officer stopped writing as though the ink in his pen had suddenly run dry. His eyes brows leaped as he lifted his head and stared at her. “Power of attorney?” he repeated. “This is a power of attorney situation?”

She nodded.

Laying the pen atop the report form, the policeman smiled, and patted the woman on the hand as though he were consoling a small child who had skinned her knee. “I’m afraid I can’t be of any help ma’am. That’s entirely a civil matter. Nothing the police would get involved in.”

“Civil matter?” she said. “But how do I get him to stop? How do I get my money back?”

A warm tone washed over the young man’s face as he leaned across the counter top his chest balancing on his crossed arms. “You need to speak to a lawyer. It’s a civil matter.”

The woman nodded, stepped through the door, and unfurled her umbrella. “But I can’t afford a lawyer,” she said, the despair in her voice dripping as hard as the rain. “He steals all my money.”

This past spring I was invited to speak in the Lower Mainland by a credit union on the financial abuse of seniors. During the weeklong series of presentations I continually heard the same grievance from those in attendance, “We have reported the matter to the police, but they say it’s not criminal, but civil. Go see a lawyer.” The abuse of powers by an appointed attorney acting as power of attorney is not civil; it’s criminal. The police are wrong.

Section 331 of the Criminal Code of Canada clearly sets out the offence, Theft by Persons Holding Power of Attorney. This section has been in existence for many decades now, and yet very few police officers have heard of it. One of the reasons for this may be the fact this section is not a charging section, but what is referred to as a descriptive section. When someone is charged with stealing funds from a senior, the charge is section 336 – Theft, not 331ccc. This causes confusion, however no matter of how it’s viewed, a theft is a theft, and an investigation needs to be undertaken by the police.

In the five years I investigated such complaints, I found the victim in most instances suffered from some degree of dementia. They were simply unaware of what was happening to their finances.  As a result, they were not able to report the matter to the police. Many of my complaints came from those in the banking sector who managed the accounts for their senior clients. It was these people who became suspicious at first glance, looked into the matter further, and then reported to me.

The most frequent comment I heard from professionals such as bankers, lawyers, and doctors was, “We can’t report anything to the police because of privacy issues.” This is utter nonsense. You have a duty to protect those you act on behalf of.

Privacy Act, Privacy Act, Privacy Act. Everyone grabs hold of this much maligned, and often quoted Act as a means of deflecting liability when it doesn’t need to be that way.

Setting the record straight is the beginning. The professions mentioned above including Notary Public are not covered by the Privacy Act. The piece of legislation you are governed under is called The Personal Information Protection of Electronic Documents Act; PIPEDA for short.

PIPEDA, provides relief under section 7(3) for the disclosure of client information to the police in the event you suspect criminal activity. This disclosure is voluntary. There is no criminal penalty for not disclosing, however…by not disclosing, you may be setting yourself at risk for civil action down the road should your client’s estate be plundered by the appointed attorney. Use your common sense; employ due diligence before you dismiss your involvement.

What happened to the woman in the above story should not happen to anyone when help is needed. Know your role in preventing financial abuse of seniors, and what can be done to prevent it. Interagency communications is the first step in protecting our seniors. Contact the stakeholders in your community to establish a working group devoted to a clear and honest exchange of ideas based on trust that are designed to eliminate elder abuse.

To have Sgt. Trainor speak to your staff, members or community please contact him at:

Sgt. Brian Trainor (ret)     (306) 291-3259      btrainor@sasktel.net      www.trainorcommunications.com

Brian Trainor was a police officer with the Saskatoon Police Service for 27 years. He attained the rank of Sergeant, and embarked on a 5 year stint in the Commercial Crime Unit where he investigated crimes targeting seniors. A published author, and nationally recognized fraud expert and public speaker, he has appeared on talk radio shows speaking on fraud issues as well as CTV and Global television news casts. Sgt. Trainor (ret.) gives public lectures to groups weekly about fraud prevention traveling from Charlottetown to Vancouver, and points in between. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and in no way represent legal advice. Always speak to a lawyer to obtain professional legal advice. 

Sgt. Trainor can be reached at btrainor@sasktel.net or at (306) 291-3259 or at www.trainorcommunications.com

SILENT VICTIMS: FINANCIAL ABUSE BY POWER OF ATTORNEY

by Sgt. R. B. Trainor (ret)

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Money is the root of all evil.” Nowhere is money induced greed more damaging than within the family. In the lectures I give, I refer to the scent of money as the motivator, “…drawing the snakes from under the rock.” Every family has snakes. Unfortunately, they don’t reveal their true selves until the opportunity arises.

For five years I investigated power of attorney abuse, particularly, theft by power of attorney as outlined in section 331 of the Criminal Code of Canada. It caused me disbelief when told by professionals who have attended my lectures they had no idea this section even existed, let alone the matter was criminal in nature. Comments such as these came from police, lawyers, doctors, bankers, and seniors themselves.

Theft is theft regardless of who commits it. A power of attorney helping themselves to the grantor’s finances, or uses fraud to steal money is a criminal. To think otherwise is folly. Theft is not a civil matter, nor has it ever been.

Once the grantor’s mental capacity is at question, things spiral out of control very quickly. The grantor is no longer comfortable or able to take care of their finances, and the attorney steps in to fill the void. This is the point where most of my investigations began.

The investigations I did concerning power of attorney theft were lengthy, and complicated. They require thousands of pages of banking documents, spanning many years of financial transactions in order to uncover the theft.

I offer the following suggestions banks and credit unions can use to mitigate future problems when power of attorney applications are involved. These are my opinions alone and are based on years of interacting with the financial, legal, medical, and police professions. Some of the ideas may not be applicable to your circumstance, or may not be feasible. They are meant as food for thought.

Suggestions

1) Recommend your member have a lawyer draw up their Power of Attorney agreement. In the past, some banks and credit unions have offered a POA form for clients to use. The risk of liability to thefinancial institution has increased over recent years as Canadian courts have held financial institutions responsible for monetary losses incurred by victims of attorney’s who have committed egregious theft.

2) If you decide to continue to offer this service to your clients, always remember who your client is, on whose behalf you are working.

3) Your client is not the person nominated as power of attorney. It is your responsibility to ensure this person poses no threat to the estate of your senior client.

4) Your role is to protect your client’s interests now, and in the future. More and more professionals including bankers and lawyers have experienced the anxiety of defending themselves against a civil action brought forward by an executor of a deceased client’s estate.

5) Learn as much as you can about the nominated attorney. Why do they want to act as power of attorney? What is their relationship with your client? How long have they known your client? What is their current financial status? Are they hurting for money? Is there a potential for financial misconduct?

6) Be certain both your client, and the appointed attorney know what’s required of the attorney. Too often, ignorance leads to inappropriate financial transactions by the appointed attorney, resulting in financial hardship to your client.

7) If possible, schedule several visits with your client, one preferably in their home setting. People are more relaxed at home. You may get a better response to your questions.

8) Be businesslike, but firm with the appointed attorney. Ask the hard questions. It could save you a mess down the road.

9) If the capacity of your client is even slightly in doubt, ask him/her to submit to a geriatric examination. Capacity in Canada is not a medical determination, but a legal one however the position the Law Society of Saskatchewan is to question why lawyers would want to place themselves in a position where they would assume all the risk in making such a vital, and important decision; especially when medical assistance is available. Is it not wiser to seek a second opinion? If lawyers are not willing to take the responsibility of determining capacity, why would you as an employee of a financial institution?

11) If possible, videotape any conversations with your elderly clients as a means of preserving evidence in case of a civil lawsuit down the road by the executor. There is no better way to show your clientunderstood the instructions you gave, and was of sound mind. As a police officer, I knew the importance of taping my interviews. In Saskatoon, our prosecutors preferred video and audio tapes to handwritten statements.

Conclusion

Consider the possibility you and your financial institution may be sued by the estate after your clientpasses away. Anything related to your client’s file could be included in a Defense lawyer’s information package in civil court.

At the very least, you could be in the uncomfortable position of defending decisions you made regarding capacity without the latitude of being able to disclose confidential documents in court; a very difficult proposition. Avoid falling into this trap by practicing due diligence when dealing with your client’s financial future. I know, and you know you did the best for your senior client, but how will convince a judge of this should you face civil action down the road?

To have Sgt. Trainor speak to your staff, members or community please contact him at:

Sgt. Brian Trainor (ret)     (306) 291-3259      btrainor@sasktel.net      www.trainorcommunications.com

Brian Trainor was a police officer with the Saskatoon Police Service for 27 years. He attained the rank of Sergeant, and embarked on a 5 year stint in the Commercial Crime Unit where he investigated crimes targeting seniors. A published author, and nationally recognized fraud expert and public speaker, he has appeared on talk radio shows speaking on fraud issues as well as CTV and Global television news casts. Sgt. Trainor (ret.) gives public lectures to groups weekly about fraud prevention traveling from Charlottetown to Vancouver, and points in between. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and in no way represent legal advice. Always speak to a lawyer to obtain professional legal advice. 

Sgt. Trainor can be reached at btrainor@sasktel.net or at (306) 291-3259 or at www.trainorcommunications.com

Identity Theft

Prepare Your Parents – Prepare Yourself

by Sgt. Brian Trainor (ret)

“Financial abuse is a crime. Report the matter to the police immediately.”

The world we live in is very different from that of your parents, and their parents. Imagine no telephone, no internet, and no television. The only way anyone scammed money from you was at the annual carnival in town. Unfortunately the carnival has now invaded your life.

From phone scams to internet fraud, the world has become a very scary place. It seems there is no place safe anymore. Whether you are bombarded by aggressive salespeople, or by advertising admonishing you for not buying into the latest fad, it’s a struggle to hang onto your hard earned dollars. And then along comes the scam artist.

Fraud is the oldest crime in the books. Think back to the days of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden with its lovely apple trees, and that evil snake. “Take a bite of apple Eve. Good things will happen.” It sounds to me like a conman selling a bill of goods as crooked as grandpa’s little finger. The first crime ever perpetrated was definitely a fraud.

I have identified the most common scams below, and offer simple tips to pass along to keep from being taken.

1) PHONE SCAMS
-lottery win
-large prize win
-bank inspector

Verbal Clues it’s a Scam
-They tell you to send cash only (never send cash to anyone)
-They say not to tell anyone (why not?)
-They may say they are the Police (the police will never call about a lottery)
-You’re to send money to a postal box (located at a Mailbox Etc. Store)
-You’re to send the tax (10%) (10% of $250,000 is $25,000)
-They ask if this the woman of the house? (They don’t know your name)

Stay Safe
-Hang up the phone. Don’t talk to these creeps. “Slam Those Phones”
-Quit being so polite

2) IDENTITY THEFT
-dumpster diving for credit card receipts
-garbage picking looking for personal information
-Internet phishing – phony website emails

Stay Safe
-Buy a shredder and shred anything with personal info on it
-Never give out personal information over the phone or the Internet
-Never toss anything in the garbage that identifies you
-Read monthly credit card and bank statement looking for fraud
-If you have been called by someone, let a friend know
-Get advice before making large purchases
-Credit services Equifax and Trans Union will give 1 free check/year

3) POWER OF ATTORNEY ABUSE
-It’s theft and it’s criminal, not civil
-Section 331 of the Criminal Code of Canada is titled Theft by POA
-The appointed attorney cannot spend a penny on themselves

Keep Mom and Dad Safe
-Never have joint bank accounts with POA unless it’s their spouse
-Insert requirement to account every six months into POA
-Watch for signs of mental impairment
-Have a geriatric assessment done if in question
-Watch for signs of excessive spending, or banking
-Make your bank aware of your name, relationship, and phone number
-Watch for signs of stress in parent
-Take note if prescriptions go unfilled. They are unable to afford them? Why?

Fraud is everywhere. Use common sense, and stay alert. By doing the simple things I’ve listed above, you should have no trouble in keeping yourself, and your loved ones safe.

To have Sgt. Trainor speak to your staff, members or community please contact him at:

Sgt. Brian Trainor (ret)     (306) 291-3259      btrainor@sasktel.net      www.trainorcommunications.com

Brian Trainor was a police officer with the Saskatoon Police Service for 27 years. He attained the rank of Sergeant, and embarked on a 5 year stint in the Commercial Crime Unit where he investigated crimes targeting seniors. A published author, and nationally recognized fraud expert and public speaker, he has appeared on talk radio shows speaking on fraud issues as well as CTV and Global television news casts. Sgt. Trainor (ret.) gives public lectures to groups weekly about fraud prevention traveling from Charlottetown to Vancouver, and points in between. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and in no way represent legal advice. Always speak to a lawyer to obtain professional legal advice. 

Sgt. Trainor can be reached at btrainor@sasktel.net or at (306) 291-3259 or at www.trainorcommunications.com

TRACKING IDENTITY THEFT

by the Recol.ca

Identity theft has become an increasingly popular crime in Canada as a result of recent advances in technology. Identity theft involves stealing, misrepresenting or hijacking the identity of another person or business and provides an effective means to commit other crimes.

Review and remember the following points to avoid becoming an easy target:

* Sign all credit cards when you receive them.

* Never loan your credit cards to anyone.

* Cancel credit cards you do not use and keep a list of the ones you use regularly.

* Immediately report lost or stolen credit cards and any discrepancies in your monthly statements to the issuing credit card company.

* Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank wickets, in trash cans or at unattended gasoline pumps; ensure you destroy paperwork you no longer need.

* Never provide personal information such as SIN, date of birth or credit card numbers over the telephone unless you initiate the call.

* Promptly remove mail from your ‘secure’ mailbox after delivery and do not leave pieces of mail lying around your residence or work site.

* Shred or otherwise destroy pre-approved credit card applications, credit card receipts, bills and related information when no longer needed.

* Avoid keeping a written record of your bank PIN number(s), SIN and computer passwords, and never keep this information in your wallet or handbag.

* Avoid mail or telephone solicitations disguised as promotions or surveys offering instant prizes or awards designed for the purpose of obtaining your personal details.

Tips to protect your money and cards against fraud and misuse:

* Keep your card in a safe place and never lend it to anyone. Conducting an ABM or debit transaction requires both your access card and your PIN.

* Protect your PIN, it is your electronic signature. Don’t write it down – memorize it.

* When selecting a PIN, always avoid the obvious – your name, telephone number, birth date or address.

* Never disclose your PIN to anyone. No one from a legitimate financial institution, police service or business should ask for your PIN.

* Always conduct your ABM transactions when and where you feel most secure. If you are uncomfortable about using the machine for any reason, do it later or go to another location.

* To ensure privacy, use your hand or body as a shield to prevent others from seeing you enter your PIN.

* After completing a transaction, remember to take your card and your transaction record.

* After making a withdrawal from an ABM, count the cash received and put it away immediately.

* If your card is lost, stolen or is retained by an ABM, notify your financial institution immediately. Most institutions offer 1-800 telephone numbers and/or 24-hour service for lost or stolen cards.

* Robbery rarely occurs at ABMs, but if it does happen, remember that your safety comes first: Co-operate with the robber and then report the incident to the police and your bank.

Recol.ca

Other

TIPS TO KEEP YOU SAFE*

1)      Good contractors do not drive down alleys looking for business.

2)      Insist on references then phone these people.

3)      Ask for a written estimate showing the repairs to be done, and their    phone number and address.

4)      Compare prices. Phone other contractors for price quotes. Get at least three quotes.

5)      Good contractors will use professional business forms, business cards, and estimate sheets.

6)      At the end of the day you ask yourself, “Do I really need this repair?” Was this their idea or yours?

*Excerpts from the book STOP FRAUD by Sgt. Brian Trainor (ret)

Protecting Against Credit Card Fraud

by the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information

Credit card fraud takes place every day in a variety of ways. You can’t always prevent it from happening, but you can create some obstacles and make it tougher for someone to get hold of your cards and card numbers. Treating your credit cards and account numbers like cash — that is, very carefully — is one way to head off potential misuse.

How Does Credit Card Fraud Happen?

Theft, the most obvious form of credit card fraud, can happen in a variety of ways, from low tech dumpster diving to high tech hacking. A thief might go through the trash to find discarded billing statements and then use your account information to buy things. A retail or bank website might get hacked, and your card number could be stolen and shared. Perhaps a dishonest clerk or waiter takes a photo of your credit card and uses your account to buy items or create another account. Or maybe you get a call offering a free trip or discounted travel package. But to be eligible, you have to join a club and give your account number, say, to guarantee your place. The next thing you know, charges you didn’t make are on your bill, and the trip promoters who called you are nowhere to be found.

What Can You Do?

Incorporating a few practices into your daily routine can help keep your cards and account numbers safe. For example, keep a record of your account numbers, their expiration dates and the phone number to report fraud for each company in a secure place. Don’t lend your card to anyone — even your kids or roommates — and don’t leave your cards, receipts, or statements around your home or office. When you no longer need them, shred them before throwing them away.

Other fraud protection practices include:

  • Don’t give your account number to anyone on the phone unless you’ve made the call to a company you know to be reputable. If you’ve never done business with them before, do an online search first for reviews or complaints.
  • Carry your cards separately from your wallet. It can minimize your losses if someone steals your wallet or purse. And carry only the card you need for that outing.
  • During a transaction, keep your eye on your card. Make sure you get it back before you walk away.
  • Never sign a blank receipt. Draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.
  • Save your receipts to compare with your statement.
  • Open your bills promptly — or check them online often — and reconcile them with the purchases you’ve made.
  • Report any questionable charges to the card issuer.
  • Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you will be traveling.
  • Don’t write your account number on the outside of an envelope.

Report Losses and Fraud

Call the card issuer as soon as you realize your card has been lost or stolen. Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24 hour service to deal with this. Once you report the loss or theft, the law says you have no additional responsibility for charges you didn’t make; in any case, your liability for each card lost or stolen is $50. If you suspect that the card was used fraudulently, you may have to sign a statement under oath that you didn’t make the purchases in question

TELEMARKETING SCAMS

by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services

The telephone rings. A telemarketer says you’ve won a dream vacation or a cash prize. These calls are not only intrusive and annoying, they are often made by people who are trying to cheat you.

Phony telemarketers cheat Ontario consumers out of millions of dollars each year. While you may not be able to avoid all unsolicited calls, you can learn how to spot the ones that may be a fraud.

1-900 Numbers

Any time you call a 1-900 number, be aware that:

  • You are paying for the call — often at a minimum charge of about $35.
  • Area codes 1-900, 1-976 and 1-809 have a similar minimum charge.
  • The promoter gets a portion of the money from each incoming call.
  • Pay-per-charge numbers are used by legitimate businesses to charge their customers for information services; however, such businesses tell you about the fee upfront.
  • One scam artist often sells to another the names and telephone numbers of people who’ve lost money.
  • If you are concerned, you can order a call-blocking service from your telephone company that restricts your phone from making certain types of calls. Don’t confuse 1-900 numbers with toll-free numbers, which allow consumers to contact government and business offices without paying a long-distance charge. Toll-free numbers begin with area codes 1-800, 1-866, 1-877 and 1-888.

How Do Telemarketing Scams Work? Phony telemarketers have many different scams. One of the most common is the bogus vacation offer.

Bogus Vacation Offer

Someone calls and says that you have won a vacation. However, to claim your prize, you are told you have to pay a processing fee. Or you may be told that you have to enter into a timeshare agreement.

If you have not requested information or entered a contest, be very careful. The caller may be asking for a processing fee in order to get your personal banking information or they simply want the processing fee and have no intention of providing you with the vacation.

Do not give out personal information such as credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Thieves can use your personal information to steal your identity.

How Can I Protect Myself Against Telemarketing Frauds? If a telephone promoter promises to make you rich, claims you’re the “big winner” of a fabulous prize or says they need your financial help, check the story carefully before you act. Remember: It’s okay to simply hang up on any high-pressure or suspicious phone call.

Protect Yourself

Protect yourself against phoney telephone promoters by following this advice:

  • Never pay any kind of a fee for a prize or to claim lottery winnings.
  • Never share information about your finances, bank accounts and credit cards (not even the expiry date) unless you know the person or company you are dealing with.
  • Beware of high-pressure sales tactics. Reputable companies always respect your choices.
  • Never send money to someone who insists on immediate payment.
  • Be cautious when someone offers you a business or investment “opportunity” from an unknown source.
  • Do your homework. Check out the company and its investments, products and services before buying anything or investing money.
  • Always speak with a financial advisor or someone you trust in financial matters before responding to a telemarketing call about investment opportunities or financial services such as insurance.
  • Don’t be embarrassed. Come forward and help police capture the scam artist(s) to prevent others from being scammed.

Real Life Cases From the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre jointly operated by the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In addition to educating the public about specific fraudulent telemarketing pitches, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre plays a vital role in collecting and distributing victim evidence, statistics, documentation and tape recordings that are made available to outside law enforcement agencies.

The Case of the “Guaranteed” Returns

A man owned a company operating out of Ontario that offered various services, including investment in pharmaceutical products. Victims were guaranteed large returns on their investments if they answered an ad in the local newspaper. When they called, consumers reported that they were subjected to a lengthy sales pitch and then arranged to meet the accused at his office. At that point, they would pay the man anywhere from $525 to $10,000. After several months of avoidance and receiving absolutely no money back, the victims complained to police.

The accused was charged on four counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of fraud under $5,000.

The Case of the Advance Fee Loan Scam

Thirty-seven bogus companies offered loans to U.S. citizens for an advance fee. The companies led their victims to believe that their offices were in various U.S. states, while they were actually operating out of an industrial office space in Toronto.

At the time of the arrest, the estimated reported losses were more than $100,000 U.S. Three men were arrested and charged with fraud.

How To Get Your Name Off Telemarketers’ Lists

Every day, people across Canada receive unwanted telemarketing calls.

In 2006, the Government of Canada passed a new law to allow the creation of a “National Do Not Call” list. You can sign up to have your cell phone, home phone and fax number registered. This way, companies making unsolicited marketing or sales calls can no longer contact you.

Sign up for the “National Do Not Call” list and follow the easy steps.

TIPS TO KEEP YOU SAFE

1) Never give out any personal information on the internet.

2) Banks will never ask for personal info over the internet or the phone

3) Learn to recognize “phishing” websites.

4) Always phone the bank first before you do anything.

5) Learn to use the delete button on your computer.

6) Do not let internet strangers into your home.

7) Get a good antivirus, and firewall protection program.

8) Do not live by the belief, “It’ll never happen to me.” It could and it will.

*Excerpts from the book STOP FRAUD by Sgt. Brian Trainor (ret)