Sunday, July 21, 2024

Prince Edward County OPP advise of ongoing scam that’s seen fraudsters arrive at victims’ doors

It seems all too common to see warnings from police services and news articles cautioning of ongoing scams these days, and those who attempt to combat the issue agree – every day, thousands of people are targeted by such scams, leading to an onslaught of warnings about them that’s enough to make people ‘tune out’ the warnings.

But that doesn’t mean the warnings aren’t valuable, because if they prevent just one person from falling victim to a scam that police are aware of, the warnings did their job.

This is the sentiment that the Prince Edward County (PEC) Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) would like to convey to those living in the area with regard to a currently ongoing scam.

In a press release on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023, the PEC OPP reminded residents to “stay safe and not become a victim of fraud.” This comes, police said, after the PEC OPP received a report on Monday, Aug. 21, 2023, of a scam involving a “fake lottery claim.”

“The victim was advised they had won the lottery. After further discussion with the suspect, [the scammers] convinced the victim to provide money in a variety of forms, resulting in a substantial loss,” the OPP said.

“The suspect is believed to have attended the victim’s house to assist in the transactions.”

Furthermore, police said, the suspect in this scam has “also requested assistance from local taxi companies.”

In a follow-up to Kingstonist inquiries, Acting Sergeant Aaron Miller, Media Coordinator for the East Region OPP, explained that, while the scam did not originate at the home of the victim, the fact that the scammer had attended the victim’s home was alarming. He further explained that the aspect of the scam that pertained to local taxi companies involved the scammer ordering taxi cabs to locations in the process of carrying out the scam or ‘delivering’ the nonexistent funds.

The suspect(s) in this scam have not been apprehended, and the investigation is ongoing with the assistance of the PEC OPP Street Crime Unit.

Miller said that the scam targets vulnerable populations, such as the elderly – people the scammers believe will be too ashamed to speak up if they find themselves victims of fraud. As such, it is even more important that victims of these scams contact authorities or confide in trusted family members if they suspect they’ve been defrauded.

“If this is happening to one person, it’s potentially happening to others,” Miller said.

“There may be more victims of this organized scam.”

The Acting Sergeant said these types of scams are so pervasive, that no victim of one should feel ashamed. In fact, he shared that the scams where people receive messages, emails, or phone calls informing them “You’ve won!” or “You’ve been selected!” are so prolific, that even he and other local OPP officers are targeted by them daily.

“It’s constant,” he said, “and AI has completely changed the ballgame.”

Indeed, as artificial intelligence, or AI, continues to become more accessible and the use of it more prevalent, scams now employ AI in a myriad of ways to make their false promises more believable.

“Fraudsters are clever and will often have an answer for any question,” the OPP said.

With that in mind, the PEC OPP are offering the following tips to County residents to avoid victimization:

  • Do not be afraid to say no
  • Do your research
  • Do not give out personal information
  • Ask for credentials – know who you’re dealing with
  • Remember: If it seems too good to be true, it likely is

The OPP asks residents to share this information with others, particularly those who may be vulnerable targets of such scams. More information on fraud, recently-detected scams, anti-victimization advice, and reporting incidents of scams can be found on the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.

Anyone who has been a victim of this fake lottery claim scam, or who has lost money due to any fraud, is encouraged to report it to the OPP at 1-888-310-1122.

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