Telephone fraudsters in the Townships

By Matthew Sylvester, Special to The Record

Many residents of Ayer’s Cliff were hit with a series of phone scam calls over the weekend, with the town going as far as to send out a warning not to respond to any suspicious calls. The fraudsters claimed to represent CIBC, the only bank in town, before getting victims to buy gift cards and hand over their codes.
Marilyn Lawand fell victim to the scam.
She received a call on Friday at 7 a.m. from someone claiming to be the senior fraud supervisor at CIBC, and they said that her account had been defrauded for $1,500. According to the scammers, they even had the RCMP involved.
Lawand explained that she’s usually got slim margins on her monthly budget, and losing that much money would put her in a pretty tight spot. She was ready to do whatever she could to help the bank get her money back. Lawand said that she never felt the urge to question the callers. “I grew up in a community where people trusted each other,” she said.
The scammers took advantage of her trust and convinced her that the bank needed her to purchase Google gift cards to help with the investigation. Each morning for the rest of the weekend, they would call her up and ask her to go get more. They kept her thinking they were legitimate by providing even more personal information about her bank account than she had on hand.
Luckily, Lawland was able to figure out the trick on Sunday morning after calling up her bank’s actual number and asking a few questions. They revealed that her account had never been defrauded in the first place, and that the people who were claiming to be helping her were probably pocketing the gift card numbers to sell later on.
“It’s not the kind of scam I’m used to,” Lawland explained. She said that she always looks out for people who offer things that are too good to be true, but this time it was her willingness to help that was taken advantage of. “I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” she said.
A representative from the Sûreté du Québec explained that these over the phone scams have been getting all the more common in recent years. Organized scammers will sometimes use other methods to obtain your information to seem more credible before making their attack. Sometimes even publicly available information can seem like enough to prove someone’s legitimacy.
She offered a few general rules of thumb to go by when you’re on the receiving end of a suspicious call; to always ask for a full name and the name of the enterprise they represent, to never give out your personal information over the phone, and to never give any sort of payment by phone, email, or text message.

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