Guelph Police is asking residents to do your research and trust your gut after noting numerous ongoing frauds have been reported recently in the city.
Const. Kyle Grant of the Guelph Police Service said rental fraud and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scams are especially prevalent.
“Unfortunately there are people who look to take advantage of different scenarios and that’s why we see scams are so prevalent,” said Grant. “They are something that unfortunately are not going away and we have to be mindful of that.”
Although he notes they can happen any time of year, Grant said there does seem to be more rental scams occurring in August and September, the months most post-secondary students tend to be looking for a place to rent.
Rental frauds generally involve pictures of a property posted online with a person requesting an e-transfer before they mail the key. The photos are often taken from houses that were recently put up for sale.
After the first e-transfer is sent the fraudster continues to ask for funds until the victim stops sending money and then the fraudster disappears.
“We are always encouraging the public to be very cautious when you are dealing with somebody you don’t know, especially online and over the phone and to make sure you are always doing your research to really make sure it’s a legitimate company you are dealing with and it’s a legitimate transaction before you ever spend any money online,” said Grant.
Guelph Police is also noting a number of so-called CRA scams, in which a fraudster contacts a victim claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency and seeking payment by BitCoin or gift card under the threat of arrest.
“It’s unfortunate because we are seeing reports to the Guelph Police Department almost every day, if not multiple times a day, of people unfortunately being tricked into sending BitCoin and into sending gift cards and money,” said Grant. “It always breaks my heart when I hear these scams happening and people being out thousands of dollars in some circumstances.”
The Canada Revenue Agency will never ask for funds by BitCoin or gift card, he cautioned.
Grant notes it can sometimes be very difficult to recover those funds once they are gone.
“A lot of times these scams, these rings, can be very sophisticated and they are calling from other countries, provinces or cities so it can be very difficult to track, very time consuming, if possible at all,” he said.
Grant said the best way to curb the behaviour is through education.
“If this feels wrong, if you're getting that feeling in the pit of your stomach there is usually a reason for that,” said Grant.
He suggests speaking with someone you trust if anyone ever asks you to send money in a transaction that feels at all fishy.
“That could be a family member, a friend, a coworker, a neighbour,” said Grant. “Let them know what’s going on and see what they think, because that’s the way a lot of these scams come to light is unfortunately someone is defrauded by sending BitCoin or gift cards or money and then they let someone know and right away that person lets them know they think they have been scammed.”