For Fraud Prevention Month, the Edmonton Police Service focuses on local victims of fraud. We chose this path so that we could humanize these crimes and prove that frauds do not have stereotypes. Fraud affects everyone, regardless of age, sex, or ethnicity. These brave citizens came forward to share their stories and provide others with the knowledge and warnings with the hope that future frauds could be avoided.
CRA Bitcoin Scam
Mass Market Fraud
Shannon Baxter (early 20s) was attending business classes at NAIT part-time and working at the family business, Yellowhead Storage, full-time during the week.
She started helping out her mother, Heidi, with invoices and sales. One day, she came across an invoice from a company that she did not recognize. She phoned the company asking for verification because she thought it was a scam. Her instinct was right - it was a phishing scam.
In 2014, Shannon found another invoice for the purchase of shipping containers that didn't seem right. She shared it with the accountant and then tried to track down the buyer, only to discover that the phone number was out of service.
Shannon informed her parents that the buyer didn't exist. Heidi admitted to her husband Joe that she took and sold the shipping containers. She had established a shell company called West Yellowhead Transport and had been selling the containers between April 2013 and February 2014. A company driver, Travis, was assisting her.
"You always think of family as people you can trust. But people can change," said Shannon. "One memory I have of my mother is at a grocery store. She found 20 dollars on the ground and handed it to the cashier because it didn't belong to her."
Heidi was let go from the company and a new general manager was hired. Shannon soon discovered that the new manager was making unauthorized credit card purchases with the corporate card and accumulating late charges on invoices. His employment was also terminated.
In October 2016, Shannon became the new general manager of the company. Since then, she has implemented basic business processes/procedures, checks and balances, security cameras, digital systems and file back-up processes to ensure the safety of all employees and the business. There is also a new system in place that ensures the shipping containers in the yard are physically counted once a month.
"My grandma, she started the family business. She was semi-retired and still came in once a week to check on things. She had rules. Like, don't let the phone ring more than twice or that everyone should know at least two people's roles," said Shannon. "When I took over, I re-implemented some of her practices. She was a watcher. Now, I'm one."
On January 8, 2018, Heidi was convicted and sentenced to 15 months in jail. She admitted to profiting just over $153,000. The family company, Stankay Holdings, lost an estimated $360,000 throughout Heidi's scam.
This type of scam is an example of a financial crime. Typically referred to as white collar crimes, these scams are nonviolent crimes committed in commercial situations by individuals, groups or corporations for financial gain.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We've all heard this message before. Yet, online fraud continues to grow.
A local couple (who do not wish to be identified) had been searching online for an RV for an extended period. Finally, they found the one that met all of their needs. They reached out to the seller and set up a meeting to view the vehicle.
The lady who was selling the RV was accompanied by a man to the meeting. The man answered all of the questions that the couple had. He even let them go for a test drive.
"We were so enamoured by his knowledge and helpfulness," said the wife. "I'm a naturally skeptical person but I didn't want to seem rude by asking too many questions."
The couple ended up purchasing the RV later that evening. When they realized that the vehicle had been stolen, they felt robbed of the whole situation.
"Any suspicion you have, don't worry about feeling rude. Address it," said the wife. "Dig deep, hold off, pause and listen to your hunches."
This couple was one of 32 victims in 2017 that purchased a stolen vehicle. All 32 cases combined resulted in a total loss of $129,042.00 to this mass marketing scam.