Fraud up nationwide, says StatCan

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Call the cops before you pay up, says RCMP

St. Albert was no stranger to the fraudsters that pushed up Canada’s national crime rates last year, says a local cop.

Statistics Canada released its 2016 police reported crime statistics report Monday. The annual report tracks crime nationwide.

The report found that the overall volume and severity of crime in Canada rose about one per cent last year as measured by the crime severity index – the second such consecutive increase after 11 years of decline. Crime (as measured by the index) was still 29 per cent lower than it was in 2009, however.

The main reason for this rise was fraud, the report found. Canada saw a 14 per cent jump in police-reported fraud last year, with the Edmonton region seeing a 17 per cent increase, reports Rebecca Kong, chief of the policing services program at Statistics Canada. The increase was likely due to more public awareness and the rise of Canada Revenue Agency-themed scams last year.

St. Albert RCMP Cpl. Laurel Kading said she’s definitely seen an upswing in fraud in St. Albert in the last year, and that the detachment has scaled up its awareness efforts to compensate.

The CRA scam typically involves a phone call or email from someone claiming to be from Canada’s tax agency that says you owe them money and will be arrested if you don’t pay, Kading said. Some ask for you to pay using iTunes gift cards.

“There’s a real onus on us as citizens to become informed on how the Canada Revenue Agency actually operates, because that’s not how they operate at all,” Kading said.

The CRA will give you many opportunities to pay up before they take court action, and will never send the cops to arrest you, she said.

Kading said both she and her mother had received calls from people attempting this scam. In her case, the caller had a heavy accent and used legal terminology that made it obvious he was a fake (he used the American term of “burglary” instead of Canada’s “theft,” for example).

Kading said her mother was really rattled by the call, which was the goal of these fraudsters.

“They’re creating panic,” she said, and they want you to act before you can think.

Kading said people who get these calls should hang up and run the call by family members or the RCMP. The cops will tell you right away if a call is in any way legitimate.

St. Albert has had cases of rental fraud recently where owners rent the same property out to multiple people, Kading said. These schemes are tougher to avoid, but bringing a witness to your property inspection and using cheques instead of cash can help you prove your case.

The detachment has also had cases of people who send thousands of dollars to con-artists who pretend to be friends or lovers online, Kading said.

“It really preys on people’s hearts,” she said of these romance scams.

Romance fraudsters will claim to need money for various reasons and will want to keep their relationship secret, Kading said.

“These people are professionals,” she said, and know how to milk people for every cent.

It’s important for people to be open about these relationships with family and friends, Kading said. A third-party can often spot red flags the victim will miss.

Kong noted that just 31 per cent of crimes of victimization (as measured by eight specific crime types) are reported to the police, with about 80 per cent of those who did not report those crimes saying their crimes seemed too minor to report.

Kading said it’s important to report crimes such as scams to police whether you fall for them or not, as it affects where they put their resources.

“If we’re not aware of a trend coming in, we can’t warn people.”

The report is available in the July 24 issue of The Daily at statcan.gc.ca.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.