Published:November 18, 2019
Updated:November 18, 2019 7:38 AM MST
Const. Matt Rutherford of the Victoria Police Department said it was the 10th call in just a couple of days — so he recorded a video and picked up the phone
When one scammer impersonating a Canada Revenue Agency representative hung up the phone, they probably didn’t realize who they had just called — Const. Matt Rutherford of the Victoria Police Department in British Columbia.
A video from Friday shows the officer in full uniform sitting at his desk and answering his iPhone, eagerly waiting for the ruse to begin.
When Rutherford saw the number light up on his phone, frustration prompted him to take action.
“It was about the 10th call I had received in a couple of days,” he said in a phone interview. “My colleague was in the office and it usually comes as a recorded message where you have to press ‘one’ and you go to an apparent CRA account operator, so I was frustrated and pushed ‘one’ and asked my partner to record it.”
Then the call began.
Watch as a #CRAScammer calls Cst. Rutherford… on his phone. Note that Cst. Rutherford doesn’t give his name, but politely asks questions to clearly determine it’s a fraud. Frustrated, the scammer hangs up. #yyj #fraud
“Service Canada, how can I help you,” the scammer said.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
The officer, who did not identify himself during the call, replied he was “wondering what’s happening.” The fraudster asked for Rutherford’s name, but he said, “you already have my name.”
After the caller said they need a name for “verification purposes,” the officer pressed the scammer for his location.
After a few moments of dead air, the caller hung up. Rutherford admitted he wasn’t surprised the caller backed down, but wished the call dragged on longer for “educational purposes.”
“You see reports of these people online being aggressive, using profanity, saying, ‘you have a warrant for your arrest’ and it would be nice to see some of that (in the video),” he said.
The constable said anyone who gets a scam call should not give out their personal information and immediately end the call.
“He was questioned on the questions he was asking me and probably, unfortunately, moved on to the next victim.”
The suspects and criminals doing this are across the globe
While Rutherford put a swift end to the call, earlier this month, the CRA told The Canadian Press the number of scammers pretending to be tax enforcers was putting a strain on actual tax agents — and Rutherford said the number of scam calls historically increases as time creeps closer towards tax season in April.
The CRA and the RCMP said they are trying to crack down on call centres loaded with fraudsters who phone thousands of Canadians saying they owe back taxes and use threats to provoke payments.
Some people get the calls so often they assume any communication from the tax-collection agency is bogus.
With help from police in India, the Mounties said they dismantled three major operations there and arrested a dozen people in Canada involved in the scheme.
The RCMP counted 4,000 victims who lost $15 million — the force failed to recovery virtually any of the money.
“The suspects and criminals doing this are across the globe … it is frustrating, both on a personal level receiving the calls and frustrating to see phoning the police departments saying they’ve been victimized by these people,” he said. “It’s not right, our communities shouldn’t be facing stuff like this.”
- Police in Lethbridge, Alta., say senior lost $250K in sweepstakes scam
- ‘A modern tool for a modern problem’: CRTC launches new protections against scam calls
- A caller tried to scam a 90-year-old man. The former FBI and CIA director orchestrated a reverse sting
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) notes one scamming method that has seen “an increase” since the end of September is the phone verification authentication (PVA).
A PVA is a standard method used by social networks and classifieds websites among others to confirm a user’s phone number when creating an account, suggesting that a real person owns the phone and the same person will operate the account. This is normally used to secure an account in case of forgotten passwords or suspicious account activity.
But the CAFC said recent reports indicate fraudsters are overcoming this authentication process by registering online classified ads using other people’s phone number.
The scam starts when someone posts an ad on a classified site like Craigslists and include their phone number in the contact information.
The fraudster will contact the person claiming to want to buy the item but will mention there are a lot of scammers on the site.
The con artist will claim to want to verify the seller is a real person before sending money. They send a verification code and ask to send it back. For anyone who complies, ” Voilà! Your phone number is now linked to an account that will be used for spam or fraudulent activities,” writes the CAFC.
People just need to be educated
The CRA notes it will never call or leave voicemails using aggressive language or threatening arrest. While agents may phone asking for more information, requests for payment are always in writing.
A legitimate CRA representative on the phone will never direct callers to links in their email to fill out personal or financial information and demand immediate payment by Interac e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards from retailers such as iTunes, Amazon or others.
The agency also never uses text messages.
Rutherford said while Canadians are “very nice,” they need to exercise skepticism when receiving a call from alleged government agencies, mentioning that even his own police station’s number was “spoofed.”
“People just need to be educated and know that these agencies aren’t going to be calling them to elicit money and get information,” he said.
— With files from The Canadian Press