Halton Regional Police Service
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Frauds and Scams

Regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, race and/or marital status, confidence ('con') artists share a few things in common. They all offer deals to help you out, get you something you need for 'half price' or even make you rich. All are linked by a common knowledge of human nature and are adept at exploiting it to their advantage.

While each con game is unique, the Halton Regional Police Service Regional Fraud Unit has identified a few common types of cons/swindles:

Home Improvement:

One of the most prolific schemes is the door-to-door renovating company. These salespeople claim that they "just happen to be in the neighbourhood" and offer a good deal for improvements you might want done.

Don't feel pressured. Ask questions and only commit to the business when you are satisfied that he/she is legitimately representing a reputable company and that you actually need the work done. Always be skeptical of salespeople who offer to inspect your roof, chimney, or furnace at no cost. You can be sure they will recommend work that is required immediately, whether or not it actually is.

The safest way to ensure satisfaction is to get estimates from established companies in your community. Because these firms have reputations and businesses to protect and will be around after the work is done, you can expect a higher quality of workmanship and a better price.

Apartment Buildings/Rental Units:

  • When a stranger knocks, don't open the door. Simply talk through it.
  • If someone knocks at your apartment door and tells you that your superintendent said work needs to be done in your home, keep in mind that you have the right to refuse that person entry
  • Confirm with your superintendent that work needs to be done prior to opening the door
  • Always keep your door(s) locked, even when you are at home
  • If you own your own home, be wary of unsolicited home repair offers

Contracts:

Before signing any contract, read it over carefully. If you do not understand or if you have doubts about the conditions of the agreement, don't sign on the dotted line. For all you know, you could be signing away the deed to your home or committing yourself to a lifetime of payments at high interest rates.

Remember that any reputable company will allow you sufficient time to inspect a contract. Be wary of that "limited time offer" and salespeople who "explain away" contracts or shrug them off as a "standard" documents that shouldn't be a concern to you. A reputable salesperson will allow you time to consider what you are purchasing and the time to seek legal advice without conditions.

Phoney Bank Inspector:

The elderly are often the victims of one of the most cruel swindles: phoney bank inspector.

Here's how it works:

The fraud artist, either alone or with an accomplice, will claim to be a bank inspector or police officer trying to trap a dishonest employee of the bank where you have an account.

The first approach is often made by telephone. You will be asked to withdraw money from your account and give it to the con artist for use as evidence against the employee under investigation. You will be cautioned to maintain utmost secrecy so that employees of the bank are not alerted and you may even be offered a reward for your cooperation.

Predictably, the phoney 'bank inspector' disappears and so does your money.

Remember: No bank employee or police officer will ever ask you to withdraw money from your account for any reason. If anyone asks you to, call your bank manager and the Halton Regional Police Service.

Debit Card Fraud:

This type of fraud is becoming more common. By taking a few simple precautions, you can protect yourself:

  • Cover the keypad when entering your Personal Identification Number (PIN). Doing so will not only deter criminals from defrauding you, but demonstrate to them that you know they are out there and that you refuse to be their victim.
  • Avoid using a common number linked to you such as your birthday or address as your password
  • Never write your PIN on your card or in your wallet. This makes it very easy for a criminal to access your information.
  • Always shred personal information about yourself, including bank or credit card statements, receipts, insurance forms and/or physician statements

Credit Card Fraud:

As credit card use on the Internet increases, so too do incidents of credit card fraud.

  • Always check your financial statements. Doing so will ensure you are aware of your financial situation and that you will notice if your credit has been compromised.
  • When expecting a new credit card or financial record through the mail, know approximately when it was mailed and when you might expect to receive it. This will help stop criminals from going through your mail and stealing information without your knowledge.

While tips may seem very basic in the fight against credit card fraud, credit card companies report that few people actually take these simple precautions.

Internet Over-Payment Fraud:

In this type of fraud, a seller posts an item(s) for sale on the Internet. A buyer contacts the seller and arrangements are made to purchase the product.

The buyer then sends the seller a cashier's cheque or money order for an amount greater than the price of the merchandise.

From here, the buyer directs the seller to cash the cheque and wire the excess funds to either the buyer or a third party. The seller, believing the cheque to be genuine, deposits the cheque and then wires the amount of the overpayment as directed.

It is usually after the funds have been wired that the cashier's cheque or money order is returned as counterfeit. The bank then holds the seller responsible for the amount of the fraudulent cheque, leaving the seller defrauded of both the money and the product.

The following guidelines are offered by the Halton Regional Police Service to assist sellers in minimizing their risk of Internet over-payment fraud:

  • Be suspicious if the cheque you receive is greater than the agreed upon price of the merchandise you are selling. You may wish to consider an online payment service.
  • Current technology has improved the quality of counterfeit cheques and therefore makes them difficult to detect. Be wary if the cheque is drawn from an out-of-country bank account as it may take a month before the counterfeit is realized.
  • Never agree to accept a cheque for an inflated amount and to reimburse the balance
  • Never agree to wire bank funds to the buyer or forward the funds to a third party. The buyer will have several seemingly legitimate reasons for wanting this done but all should be met with skepticism. The buyer may even offer an incentive to compensate you for your trouble by allowing you to keep an additional portion of the cheque as a tip.
  • Know who you are dealing with when conducting transactions over the Internet and confirm the personal information of the buyer
  • Do not succumb to any pressure at the hands of the buyer or feel you have to complete a transaction when you are not comfortable. As much as you may be tempted to make the sale, you will regret not taking the time at the beginning to ensure you are dealing with a legitimate purchaser.

The jeopardy with this kind of scam is that by depositing the fraudulent cheque into your bank account you have, in essence, become an unwitting party to the offence and could be held liable by your bank and/or face criminal prosecution.

Lottery Scams:

The primary thing to say to yourself when contacted by someone who tells you that you are the big winner or have the chance of a lifetime is: If it sounds too good to be true, chances are, it is. If you have legitimately won a lottery, you will never have to pay anything to receive your windfall.

Be very cautious when being told you have won a contest you cannot recall entering. Your name may be on a list that has been sold.

How Criminals Get Your Information:

Criminals have many sources. They might steal your wallet or personal documents left in your vehicle. They might also steal from mailboxes and rifle through recycling bins. Some companies have been known to make a profit by selling your information (address, name, phone number, etc.).

Criminals have been known to use false names to avoid capture by the authorities. Often, by the time someone realizes they have been a victim of fraud, the criminals have already moved on to another identity or con, making them even more difficult to track.