The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) and its partners in government, law enforcement and business are kicking off Fraud Prevention Month with cautionary stories from victims of frauds as well as advice on how to avoid these types of crimes.
One such victim was Hilda Schulz, an Edmonton senior, who fell prey to the popular grandparent scam and was defrauded of $7,080. “At the time, my instinct was to help out my grandson who was in trouble,” says Hilda. “But knowing what I know now, I should have checked with family to see if there really was an emergency.”
In May 2011, she received a telephone call from someone who claimed to be her grandson and needed help. Allegedly, the grandson had been arrested for impaired driving following a friend’s wedding in Quebec and needed money for bail. He desperately told her not to contact his parents as they would be furious and he was ashamed of what had happened.
A short time later, Hilda received another call from a man claiming to be her grandson’s lawyer, who advised her she needed to send $3,000 immediately by money transfer to a Quebec address for her grandson’s bail. After wiring the money, Hilda was contacted again by the alleged lawyer for an additional $3,800 so the grandson could pay the fine and get his driver’s licence back. Wanting to help her grandson, Hilda complied, and also had to pay $280 in service charges.
The next day, Hilda decided to follow up with her grandson’s family in Calgary. They reported the grandson was in Calgary working, and had never been to a wedding in Quebec. After discussing the ordeal with a friend, she decided to contact police.
Hilda’s experience was one of eight grandparent scams reported to EPS in 2011, where victims lost approximately $34,000. Only two grandparent scams were reported to EPS in 2016, but losses remained relatively high at approximately $7,000.
In 2016, there were approximately 723 fraud victims in Edmonton who lost $1.1 million, but as police investigations move forward, the number of victims is expected to increase and losses are estimated to exceed $10 million. Frauds continue to rise, and approximately 3,982 frauds were reported to EPS in 2016 compared to 3,244 in 2015, which is an increase of 23 per cent.
Fraud files are shared with provincial and national agencies for further investigation, but police believe that shame keeps many people from reporting.
“Every day, police respond to the victims of crime who suffer great pain and loss, and fraud victims are no different,” says Insp. Peter Bruni-Bossio with the EPS Major Crimes Branch. “Fraudsters take advantage of our human nature, so we can lose more than money or property or identity, we often lose our dignity and trust. As a community we need to reach out to these victims, share their stories, and build a greater awareness of fraud so we can prevent further victimization in the future.”
Mayor Don Iveson has declared March 2017 as ‘Fraud Prevention Month’ in Edmonton. Throughout the month, EPS and its partners will be highlighting common frauds such as: mortgage fraud and grandparent scams, high-pressure door-to-door sales scams, stolen credit card fraud, cybercrimes and mass marketing schemes, and identity theft.
EPS will also host the first-ever interactive social media ‘Fraud Prevention Friday’ at 10 a.m. on March 31, 2017, where citizens can Tweet their fraud questions to @edmontonpolice to get answers from Det. Linda Herczeg with the EPS Economic Crimes Section.
The Hon. Stephanie McLean, Minister of Service Alberta adds, “Our government is working with police forces and community groups across the province to make life better for Albertans. That means protecting consumers from identity fraud, gouging and scams. The first week of Fraud Prevention Month focuses on door-to-door sales. I’m proud our government listened to concerns of Albertans, and took action to end pushy, misleading sales pitches at the doorstep.”
A variety of fraud awareness resources are available to the public from Service Alberta, the Competition Bureau, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, including the Little Black Book of Scams. For additional fraud and crime prevention tips, please visit www.edmontonpolice.ca/crimeprevention.
The Edmonton Police Service reminds citizens that fraud prevention is ongoing – we need to recognize it, report it, and stop it. If you are the victim of a fraud, or have knowledge of an economic crime, please contact the EPS at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or at www.tipsubmit.com/start.htm.