RCMP warn about attempted scam in classified listings

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, August 28 2018

An employment ad placed in the Sounder classifieds - as well as several other community newspapers across Canada - appears to be a fraud scam.

Cst. Mark Hilland of the Gabriola RCMP said a person on Gabriola had attempted to apply for the job (advertising for a caregiver position).

He said when an applicant replied to the ad, the explanation given was that a family was moving back to Canada from Australia and were seeking someone to help working as a childcare provider and to assist with errands to make a smooth transition into the community. The prospective employer requested information such as references and a criminal record check, as might be expected in a legitimate interview process. 

The victim was offered the job and an arrangement was made to courier a cheque to them to cover the cost of the applicant’s first week’s wages and to purchase food and other necessities just prior to the family’s arrival. Another message was then sent explaining a change in plans, that the shopping would be conducted by a personal shopper, but that the cheque was already en route to the victim. 

The employer requested that the victim cash the cheque, keep their portion for the wage, and deposit the remaining amount of cash into a different account, supposedly belonging to the personal shopper. The intention was that the account that the cheque was written from would be closed immediately prior, and have no available funds. 

The bank would not be aware of the closure, and when the victim cashed the cheque and deposited cash into the other account, it would be withdrawn immediately by the scammer. When the cheque didn’t clear, the victim would be stuck owing the bank the missing funds. In our case, the timing did not work in the favour of the scammer, and the bank was already aware of the account closure and refused to cash the cheque. When the victim attempted to contact the scammer again, all communication ceased. 

Hilland advised islanders to be aware, “anytime you are asked to deposit a cheque into your account and then put some cash into another account it most likely is a fraud. The bank will eventually catch up to the problem with you holding the bag!”

Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau, Senior Media Relations Officer with BC RCMP, addressing wider scam concerns said, “The more information you provide, scammers will adapt to the information you provide.

“I think people need to be extra careful. Quite often - the more information you provide - scammers will adapt to the information you provide.

Linteau said whenever dealing with a random phone call or suspicious contact - do not engage.

“If you don’t play close attention, it’s easy to get caught.

“People are busy, we get email on our cell phones now. If you click on it, you get caught sharing information.”

She said if people get emails which look to be from their bank or any other kind of contracted service (like Netflix), close the email down. Don’t click on any links at all.

Phone the company direct - using the number included on invoices/bills rather than the suspicious email - and ask if there are any issues with the account.

“People have to take that step, and not simply engage with the email that they get.”

“And report it to the Canadian Fraud Centre - that web site is a really good resource about some of the common scams that are out there right now.”

Even when doing business online, take extra steps to be careful.

“Don’t provide money - limit the information that you are sharing.

“If you are selling a product online and need to meet someone, you can always meet them in a public place, use police stations if no other place is available. Be careful.

“The scams are always changing - but the response is the same - don’t engage, hang up, that’s always something you can do.

“They cast a wide net - same with phone calls - if they make 100 calls, but get one person, that might be enough. 

“They will do what they can to catch someone.”