The Regina Police Service is reminding people to be cautious when using money transfer services to make payment for goods and services, especially when you are dealing with someone you don’t know. Technology allows people to do everything from education to banking to shopping without ever having to leave their homes. Unfortunately criminals also recognize that technology can be used to defraud and victimize people.
According to The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (formerly known as Phonebusters), money transfer services are, unfortunately, a criminal’s preferred payment method for scams. Western Union is one company that has done its own public education to help people avoid becoming victims of internet-based crime. Money transfers are popular with criminals because the same immediacy that makes them convenient also allows instant transactions, worldwide. A criminal can use false identification, keeping his or her anonymity. The international and inter-jurisdictional nature of the transactions themselves makes it difficult for police to investigate crimes.
Here are some general tips to consider before making payment using a money transfer service. These are guidelines that may help you make your own decisions:
- Most Online Auction Sites suggest payment methods such as credit card or a service such as PayPal whereby, if you are a victim of a fraud, you will be reimbursed for your loss. With a money transfer, once the money has been picked up by the recipient, there is no recourse.
- Never send money to a stranger using a money transfer service. Be very cautious in sending money to someone outside Canada. Even when you are dealing with someone you think you know, take the time to ask a few key questions to confirm the recipient’s identity.
- Be skeptical if you are contacted by someone who claims to be a relative in a crisis and asks you to send money to help. Be very careful if the caller tells you to keep it a secret to avoid “embarrassment”. This is well-known pressure tactic called the “Grandparent Scam”. If you have received such a request, ask questions and get a call-back number. Then make contact with the family members of the person claiming to be the relative in need. Confirm or disprove the claims with them prior to sending any money. In most cases, you will find the supposed “relative” is safe and the request is a fraud.
- If you receive a cheque from any person with instructions to cash it, then send a portion of the money back via money transfer, it is most likely a fraud. This scam might start with someone offering to rent a house or apartment you have advertised. The prospective renter may even be from outside of Canada. A cheque is mailed to you and you cash it. Soon after, the “renter” backs out of the deal, claiming an emergency and asks that the money be transferred back via money transfer. Once the money is sent, it turns out the cheque is a fake. Remember that even if a bank releases funds after a few days, the verification process can take much longer and you will be held responsible for the money that was originally credited to your account. In recent weeks, the Regina Police Service has had two reports of such frauds.
Education can help. To learn more about common scams and tips that may help, check websites like The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, formerly known as Phonebusters at www.antifraudcentre.ca .