By Trevor Busch
Over the phone and online frauds, including the phenomenon of call shadowing, can often be frustrating for local law enforcement, the Taber Municipal Police Commission has learned.
At the commission’s June 18 meeting during a review of the Taber Police Service’s monthly report, discussion centered on the investigation and prevention of various frauds perpetrated by individuals either over the phone or electronically.
“I find it very interesting the lengths that people go to to obtain money illegally, and how vulnerable people are that are preyed upon by these crooks,” said Coun. Randy Sparks, who serves on the TMPC. “It’s craziness what people try. You prey on people, and people feel this is really happening. It’s not right. And it happens daily all over the country, and every scam they come up with — I would never think of something like this.”
Insp. Graham Abela of the TPS, who appeared in place of Chief Alf Rudd who was absent, commented on investigative difficulties and the approach the service takes in dealing with frauds.
“Keeping on top of these investigations is difficult,” said Abela. “We increasingly train them, including Senior Cst. Andrew Evanson with a computer technology course, where he spent several days learning some investigative techniques. Unfortunately the Internet is also used for these kinds of crimes, and furthermore, many originate from countries where we just simply can’t investigate. Not only are they preying, but they’re preying from a place that we can’t reach. It’s frustrating.”
Service Alberta recently issued a warning about telephone scams in which callers demand payment of electricity bills and income taxes from individuals claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency or from Direct Energy and ENMAX, demanding payment through a credit card or online money/wire transfer services.
TMPC chair Ken Holst questioned the practice of call shadowing by fraudsters and even legitimate telemarketers, who use a complicated process to utilize numbers that are not their own to deceive customers and potential victims.
“One thing I’ve heard, and has been a bit of a concern in the community, is what they’re calling ‘number shadowing’, whether it’s a fraudulent call, or sales call, they’re able to somehow use a Taber number that’s not really where the call is originating from,” said Holst. “Is that a legal practice? I know even companies such as WestJet have been using them. I had one that was ‘Taber Special Needs’ number, so I answered it, and it was WestJet.”
Abela noted these kinds of frauds often originate outside the North American continent, and can be difficult to pursue from an enforcement perspective.
“It is a common practice with organized crime, specifically from Eastern Europe, and from Africa,” said Abela. “You use certain apps that exist within smart phones as well as computer programs. You dial a number, in which they then forward — their call is forwarded from the number they dialed from. It happens surrepticiously, you don’t even know it’s occurring to you.”
“It can get really complicated. It also happens with email, so the email will get forwarded from another email account. So when we do search warrants, we’ll find quite often that the account originated in the southern United States, but that’s not where the email originated.”
“The email originated from somewhere in Eastern Europe, or Nigeria. There’s a large population — a group there — that does this.”
Due to the vagaries of international law, extradition from a number of the nations from which these frauds originate is difficult, according to Abela.
“The Government of Canada doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Nigeria, and as a result, it’s very difficult.”
“We do know that federal law enforcement has been in touch with Nigerian law enforcement in an attempt to try to curb some of it. But it’s very difficult for local police. We can’t do anything with regard to a place that we don’t have a treaty. Where we do have treaties, we have brought criminals back to our country for trial.”
According to Service Alberta, if a consumer receives a suspicious call, they should attempt to ascertain details which only an account holder and a retailer would know, including the address of your account, and your payment history as well as the date and amount of your last transaction and how it was made.
Individuals should not provide any personal or financial information, or believe your telephone’s caller ID — the caller may have altered it to make it appear the call is originating from a legitimate company. Don’t be swayed by deadlines and aggressive tactics the caller may use to pressure consumers.
“There’s two parts that we do try to undertake as an organization, and that’s prevention and education,” said Abela. “Last year we promoted a program in the community, ‘Keep Calm, Avoid Fraud’. Whenever we get a new one, we try to educate the public through our Facebook page, as well as the media, to attempt to let as many people know not to get caught. And we do have success stories.”
If you’ve received a call you suspect wasn’t legitimate, Service Alberta advises reporting it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling toll-free at 1-888-495-8501 or by using its online fraud reporting system at http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm.
Anyone who has sent money to a fraudulent caller should contact their local police service (TPS, 403-223-8991) or (RCMP, 403-223-4447) and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.