The Merritt Community Policing Office (CPO) would like to remind everyone that March is fraud prevention month, and that citizens must be diligent in recognizing, rejecting and reporting fraud.
As scammers become more and more creative, and double down on their attacks as more people are at home and on their devices during the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing scams has become more difficult.
“Attempted scams and fraud can come in many different forms,” said Marlene Jones, Community Policing Coordinator.
“Reports involve emails, text, phone, fax, social media, internet and in person. We ask that you be careful with any attempt to contact you that you did not initiate.”
Rejecting scams, which keeps fraudsters from accessing your personal information, considering you an easy target and stealing your money, is a top priority but sometimes easier said than done.
“This can be difficult for some people because often the scammers play on your curiosity,” said Jones.
“We encourage you to slow down, focus on one thing at a time and think before you click. Clicking on an email or link can seem harmless; however, it can also initiate a download that you are not aware of.”
You should never divulge your personal information to anyone that you don’t know, and this includes those you have met online. Even if you have been in communication with the person virtually for months or years does not mean that you know who you’re talking to, or that they have any right or need for your personal information.
“We hear from some people that they engage with scammers to ‘have a little fun’, this can be risky behaviour as scamming techniques often change and any contact can increase your risk,” explained Jones.
Reporting scammers is important in order to help the appropriate authorities identify new trends and techniques, and to protect others who may be targeted.
“If you have experienced a financial loss due to a scammer this should be reported to our local police at their non-emergency number,” said Jones.
“If you need help recognizing whether something is a scam, you can contact the Community Policing Office.”
It is not necessary for you to have become a victim of a scam to report it.
“For all other scams that you feel should be reported, you can contact either the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre or the Better Business Bureau,” said Jones.
“Both agencies monitor scams within Canada and help to increase awareness.”
In March, and the rest of the year, it is important to be actively guarding against frauds of all types. Whether they are door to door, telephone or online scams, it is better to practice caution when interacting with someone that you do not know.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is.
Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald