Telephone scams up in Durham

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When most people see a strange, unfamiliar number on their phone, they’ll likely just ignore it. But what if the call is coming from the police or the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA)?

It seems in the majority of cases, the person on the other end is not who they claim to be.

Durham Regional Police Service is warning the public about a recent spike in phone scams involving the CRA and social insurance numbers (SIN).

Det. Doris Carriere of DRPS’ fraud crimes unit says these calls typically increase around the holiday season and also leading up the deadline to file income taxes.

According to Carriere, the majority of calls originate from outside of Canada, notably in a number of call centres located in India.

In addition to calls from people pretending to be from the CRA or a police officer, the scammers are also contacting people under the guise that their SIN number has been compromised.

“They typically ask for the last three numbers of the SIN,” Carriere says.

Those who do unfortunately give out this information may eventually become victims of identity fraud.

But Carriere notes it may be weeks, even months, before stolen information is used in any way.

“There’s not much we can do at this point because we don’t know when somebody will decide to sell that information,” he says.

For the CRA scams, victims will be told they owe money and must repay it immediately.

Scammers often negotiate payment and suggest a lesser amount collected by way of a third party card, gift card, credit card, pre-paid gift card or deposits into a Bitcoin ATM, installed at several locations across Durham Region.

Carriere says victims may even get a call which appears to be coming from DRPS’ non-emergency phone line, a tactic used for quite a few years, and is becoming more prevalent.

He says this can be achieved quite simply by downloading an app, and modifying what number will appear on a call.

Scammers will sometimes go as far as to search for names of officers online to appear more legitimate.

“We’ve had Chief of Police Paul Martin impersonated in the past,” he reveals.

Carriere says while most residents will receive these types of calls – he’s even gotten them on his work phone – those most victimized tend to be seniors and new immigrants to Canada.

On the latter, Carriere says they are often easy targets because “they are not necessarily used to how things work here.”

He notes police or the CRA will never request payments in these manners or leave personal information on an answering machine.

When it comes to fraud, Carriere’s advice is quite simple.

“If somebody is calling you and you’re not quite sure about it, hang up from the     conversation. And if you have concerns about a specific agency, go on the internet and    contact them, and see if there is something you have to address,” Carriere says.