Tuesday, March 30, 2010

IDENTITY THEFT - Protect Yourself from Becoming a Victim

TORONTO, March 29, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - By remembering that 'knowledge is power,' Ontario Provincial Police say consumers can and should do more to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.

Typical cases involving identity theft include situations where government documents such as drivers' licenses, health cards, Social Insurance Number (S.I.N.) cards and birth certificates have been forged or otherwise obtained. When identity is compromised, the consequences have a profound impact on individuals, businesses, government funds, and the public, in general.

Some basic steps consumers can take to better protect themselves from becoming a victim include never giving out personal information over the phone or over the internet and carry only the identification documents you need.

The OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau' Identity Crimes Unit also now has stronger legislative tools with which to charge criminals for possessing the personal information of others and prevent it from being used for fraud or theft.

"Identity theft is the starting point for many types of crimes - credit and debit card fraud, mortgage fraud, and account takeovers among other things. Savvy criminals can manipulate technology in order to obtain documents that will support their crimes." - Deputy Commissioner Vince Hawkes, Ontario Provincial Police, Provincial Commander, Investigations/Organized Crime Command "

"Combating identity crimes requires the collaborative efforts of the financial industry, law enforcement, government agencies, and consumers. Consumers need to take steps that make it less likely for them to become a victim of identity theft." - Inspector Don Perron, Ontario Provincial Police, Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau.


OPP Identity Crimes Unit (ICU) resides within the Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau in the Investigations and Organized Crime Command.

OPP ICU investigates forgery, identity theft and consumer fraud. The unit also takes the lead role in investigations into organized criminal groups carrying out fraudulent schemes involving the fabrication, trafficking and use of forged payment cards, forged cheques and counterfeit currency.

The ICU works in conjunction with municipal police services, OPP regions, as well as national and international law enforcement agencies and stakeholders, to identify and apprehend organized crime groups, locally and on a global basis.


Identity crimes include the acquisition of information or documents confirming identity of a living or deceased person, in order to perpetrate offences under the Criminal Code of Canada or any other statute. Typical cases involving identity theft include situations where government documents such as drivers' licenses, health cards, Social Insurance Number (SIN) cards and birth certificates have been forged or otherwise obtained. When your identity is compromised, the consequences have a profound impact on individuals, businesses, government funds, and the public, in general. Being a victim can affect your job, reputation, credit rating, benefits, or access to your own business and/or financial accounts.

The Canadian Bankers Association reported a loss of almost 500-million dollars in relation to the theft of payment card data in 2008.

In October 2009, legislation was passed by the Government of Canada to combat identity theft. This legislation provides law enforcement agencies with the tools and the ability to charge criminals for possessing the personal information of others before it is used for fraud or theft.

For more information, visit your financial institution's website, or contact the Canadian Bankers Association, Interac, Equifax, or TransUnion.

The OPP Identity Crimes Unit also has a number of tips and contacts to help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. To get more information, click on this link.


When impostors co-opt your name, your Social Insurance Number (SIN), your credit card number, or some other piece of personal information without your knowledge for their use -- it's a crime, plain and simple. Consumers can take some basic steps to better protect themselves from becoming a victim of identity theft includes the following:

- NEVER give out personal information on the phone, through mail, or over the Internet unless you have initiated the transaction or are absolutely certain with whom you are speaking.

- CARRY only the Identity Documents you need. For example: When was the last time you were asked to produce your Social Insurance Card? Many of us have carried it in our wallets or purses for many years. The Social Insurance Card is identification that is very useful for criminals.

- NEVER throw personal documents in the garbage without shredding them first. Identity thieves routinely pick through garbage and recycling bins. Documents to be shredded include credit applications or offers, insurance forms, and physician statements.

- ALWAYS check your bank and credit card statements to ensure that they are accurate, and make sure they arrive on time. Notify your bank immediately if the statements stop arriving at their normal time as they could have been diverted to another address by a criminal.

- NEVER give out your Personal Identification Number (PIN) over the phone or on the Internet. Financial institutions WILL NEVER ask you for your PIN over the phone or via the Internet.

- CHANGE your passwords regularly. Use hard-to-guess passwords or a combination of letters and numbers. And never share your password with anyone.

- ALWAYS ensure you're in a safe environment when on the internet. Look for the closed-lock or unbroken-key icons on your browser when entering your credit card number or other sensitive data. If you don't see the unbroken key or closed lock, or if the key is broken or the padlock is open, your transaction is not being securely transmitted across the Internet.

- CLEAR your browser's cache after visiting secure sites to ensure nobody else can view confidential information you may have transmitted.

- INSTALL and maintain a firewall to guard against unwanted access to your computer and make sure you have the latest anti-virus software installed.

- BE suspicious of spam e-mails. Criminals will use e-mails to 'phish' for your personal information. Do not use the links provided by 'phishing' e-mails. They could direct you to a criminal's website that appears similar to that of a legitimate financial institution.

- ALWAYS manually direct yourself to your financial institution's website if conducting on-line banking.

- CONDUCT credit checks on yourself periodically to ensure that your Credit Profile accurately reflects your situation and report any discrepancies immediately.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

OPP Reminds you to Protect Yourself from Telemarketing/Email Fraud

March is Fraud Prevention Month

ORILLIA, Ontario, March 18, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), in cooperation with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), is notifying the public of a recent increase in the reported number of fraud attempts using the traditional "Emergency Scam".

The Emergency Scam has operated for years as a telemarketing scam throughout North America. Fraudsters contact potential victims while posing as a family member or friend in urgent need of cash. Often the scenario involves an accident or arrest while travelling abroad, with a request that cash be sent through a money transfer company, such as Western Union or Money Gram. In the past, fraudsters have successfully targeted grandparents, giving the scam its nickname "the Grandparents Scam".

In a recent variation of this scam, compromised contact lists from hijacked email accounts are used to send the potential victim an "urgent" email request for money from a friend or relative with whom they have a correspondence. Common themes continue to be hospitalization or imprisonment while away from home. The friend or relative is unaware that their account has been used to send out these requests to everyone on their contact list.

According to CAFC statistics for Ontario, in 2009 fraudsters using the Emergency Scam made 225 failed attempts but were successful 61 times which resulted in the victims being defrauded over $230,000.

By the end of February this year, there have been a reported 96 failed attempts but 23 successful scams reported in Ontario. Fraudsters have garnered a total in excess of $88,000 from Ontarians thus far in 2010. The CAFC estimates that these frauds reported to police only reflect 5% of the actual number of cases.

The OPP urges people to verify any and all requests for money, and to report suspected fraud to the CAFC at 888-495-8501.

FRAUD...Recognize it...Report it...Stop it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

OPP Reminds You to Protect Yourself from Investment Schemes

March is Fraud Prevention Month

ORILLIA, Ontario, March 12, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Many people seek out alternative investment products that are not recognized or supplied by accredited investment brokers. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Anti Rackets Branch reminds you to be wary of investment schemes that may defraud you of your investment money. Investors should always exercise caution and carry out due diligence before making investment decisions.

There are many different investment schemes operating in Ontario - often with international connections. Many of these schemes lure victims by promising high rates of return. The perpetrators are usually vague about the details of where the money is invested. They may tell the potential investor that providing too much information may result in getting under-cut and loss of the investment opportunity. In fact, the investor's money is usually not invested, but moved to offshore banks that don't honour our banking regulations or procedures. Usually, the money invested in these schemes is not recoverable.

A prevalent example of a fraudulent investment scheme is called a "Ponzi". Primary investors are paid exceptional dividends as "interest cheques" or sometimes cash. These unbelievably high returns are not, in fact, actual dividends, but come from the deposits of new investors as they come on board.

The perpetrators of Ponzi schemes can keep them going through a variety of ruses, such as:

- paying "dividends" to the early investors. The initial investors become the best promoters of these schemes as they tell friends about the fantastic returns they are getting;
- providing names of investors, who have received dividends, to lend the scheme credibility and keep it going;
- giving the investors a receipt or promissory note on a regular basis, claiming that the investment has grown;
- providing a copy of a prospectus, or business profile, that exaggerates the success of the investment company, and;
- telling investors that their capital is guaranteed by collateral, such as a life insurance policy, when no such guarantee exists.

This self-propelled scheme attracts others and keeps going until the perpetrator has either accumulated his target amount and flees with the profits, has lost the investors' money in other business ventures, or is incarcerated for similar crimes. These types of schemes can go on for several years before the investors realize that they have been defrauded.

If someone is offering you more than the bank is willing to pay, then there is always a risk. The greater the dividend promised, the greater the risk. "If someone is offering you an investment opportunity that sounds too good to be true, then it probably is" says OPP Detective Inspector Bernie Murphy, Officer in Charge of Anti-Rackets Branch. "No one is immune to fraud. Common sense is your best protection. Always do your research, talk to others and never be rushed into making an investment decision" added Murphy.

For more information on schemes involved with Investment Fraud, log in to the Ministry of Government Services website www.ontario.ca/consumerprotection.

FRAUD...Recognize it...Report it...Stop it.


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