Lethbridge police reports $33K in losses to scammers so far in 2021

CALGARY — Scammers are still targeting Lethbridge residents, tricking victims out of thousands of dollars with promises of online purchases, timeshares and computer repairs.

It’s Fraud Prevention Month and the Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) is hoping to make sure more citizens are aware of the dangers of online scams and do all they can to protect themselves.

The renewed effort comes after a year when scammers scored about $273,000 from victims through a variety of schemes.

In 2020, online scams cost victims in Lethbridge more than $200,000, while online buying and selling scams netted about $73,000 for fraudsters.

Officials say one victim, who believed a timeshare offer was for real, lost about $51,000 while another person who allowed crooks to remotely access their computer lost about $55,000.

But the costliest single scam, involving a fund transfer from a local business, worth about $190,000, was avoided after the victim became wise to the trick, Lethbridge police say.

That’s what police want to see happen with every situation from now on, so the service is offering the following tips to protect residents and businesses via the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre:

  • Be cautious of blowout sales or unbelievably low prices;
  • Rental units listed far below market value are usually a scam;
  • Watch for spelling and text errors in the alleged offers;
  • Never trust overseas buyers who seek to close a deal without seeing products beforehand;
  • Overpayments on items you are selling are generally a red flag and;
  • Take caution when presented with offers for high-volume purchases that need to be completed urgently.

According to the latest data from LPS, scammers have already scored $33,000 through fraudulent offers for items and services through 2021.

PROTECT YOUR DIGITAL IDENTITY: BBB

While one of the primary goals of all scammers is getting into your wallet, residents are also being warned to take precautions to defend their personal information, or digital identity, from being stolen as well.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says millions of Canadians need to take the time this year to ensure their online identity, or data attributes, are protected. If they don’t, the BBB says victims are leaving themselves exposed to criminals.

“Scam artists, and even organized crime groups, can go about gleaning bits and pieces of our online identity,” said Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay.

“With enough of the pieces put together it can be used to carry out crimes that lead to monetary loss or even identity theft. That’s why we all must be so vigilant to protect our data.”

Data attributes include things like your date of birth, passwords, usernames, social insurance numbers, social media profiles and more.

With that information, the BBB says crooks can perform tasks like opening credit card accounts, apply for loans or even shoot for mortgage fraud.

To protect your online information, the agency urges residents to:

  • Make sure the security software on all your devices is up-to-date;
  • Back up important information in the event it is lost or stolen;
  • Watch your credit report and credit card statements for fraudulent activity;
  • Keep a close eye on all personal information you share on social media and;
  • Use difficult passwords for all your accounts and change them on a regular basis.

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