SURREY — Con artists are busy stealing more than hearts as Valentine’s Day approaches.
A scam surfacing this week is the “fake flower” Valentines Day fraud. Surrey RCMP Cpl. Scotty Schumann said in this scenario, a crook claiming to be with an express delivery company shows up at the victim’s door with a basket of chocolates, flowers and wine.
He or she tells the target that a card has been sent separately. Because the basket contains a bottle of alcohol, the victim is told, a “small surcharge” is required to confirm the booze wasn’t delivered to a minor.
The victim hands over his or her credit card because cash isn’t allowed (of course) and the delivery person swipes the card, collecting with it the victim’s personal information using a modified card reader.
“Many people get caught up in the sentiments and expectations of the day and may let their guard down, especially when it comes to seemingly random acts of kindness or affection,” Schumann said.
He noted a Valentine’s Day scam called “catphishing” is also making the rounds, where crooks troll online dating websites and woo victims to get personal information and money from them.
“Apps that advocate romantic meet-ups are risky ventures from a financial perspective but could also endanger your personal safety,” Schumann said.
“Remember to question anything that seems too good to be true and be cautious of those who attempt to earn your trust too quickly.”
Last year, Surrey RCMP recorded a 36 per cent increase in fraud, mostly from telephone scams perpetrated by criminals posing as representatives of the Canada Revenue Agency and Immigration Canada. Last autumn the Surrey RCMP received roughly 600 complaints.
The scammers typically try to extort cash from their victims by telling them they’ll be jailed or deported if they don’t pay such and such bogus fine or make good on a bogus debt. Seniors and people new to the country are most vulnerable, police say.
Fraud victims should not only phone the police but also report their experience to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.
Fraud is on the rise and cyber crime is increasingly vexing for police not only in Surrey but nationwide.
“I believe that as we look forward cyber crime will continue to be a more challenging issue for law enforcement across the country,” Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said at a recent speaking engagement.
“It’s something that in Surrey, in British Columbia and across the country we need to really proactively target,” he said. “It is an issue that is top of mind for law enforcement leaders across the country.”
Fordy recalled that when he started policing, investigators used to have boards with pictures of suspects and bad guys. You could see their house, address and license plate, he noted.
“Now, many of the people that are preying on our youth and on our elderly are hiding behind a computer screen. There are protecttions afforded to them that require law enforcement to work through judicial processes to gather evidence that we didn’t have to deal with 30 to 40 years ago.”
Cyber crooks can commit their crimes from anywhere in the world, he noted, and mask their identity.
Fordy said parents “really need to look at what their children are doing.”
“It’s OK to be nosy.”