Fraud of the Week: Online Scams

That request for information or item on sale may be a ruse to get your money

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Fraud of the Week: Online Scams
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Sergeant Barry Malciw

Sergeant Barry Malciw

Sergeant Barry Malciw was the Media Relations Officer for the Halton Regional Police Services. He is a detective of the Halton Regional Police Oakville Criminal Investigations Bureau – Robbery Team.

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It’s Fraud Prevention Month (#FPM2017) and the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) announces its third of four scheduled Frauds of the Week: Online Scams. Online scams target anyone with Internet and rely upon potential victims’ inattention to detail or desire for a deal to defraud them.

According to the website one in ten people have lost money to an online scam. In general, online scams can be broken down into four categories:

Phishing: Individuals receive a text message or email that appears to be from their bank asking them to enter their banking information. Once the information is received, the fraudster uses it to withdraw from the account.

Secret Shopper Scam: In this popular Halton scam victims receive a random text message or email soliciting them to earn money as a secret shopper. Those who agree are mailed a cheque (e.g. for $2,500) and are instructed to deposit it into their bank account. They are then asked to withdraw the majority of the funds (e.g. $2,000) and deposit them into a different account. Victims are told that once the funds are deposited they will receive a customer service survey. The survey never arrives and the victim comes to learn that the original cheque was fraudulent and that they are on the hook for the amount deposited (i.e. $2,000).

Email Spoofing Scam: The Regional Fraud Bureau has received reports of a new online scam whereby a corporate executive’s email has been spoofed and used to have their business’ accounting/finance department wire money. Fraudsters will typically create an email address that resembles the legitimate address and send it to a specific employee. The email usually demands that money be sent quickly “to close a deal” and that secrecy is essential so as to “not spoil the deal”. Legitimate emails have also been intercepted and spoofed with banking information and the originator’s (email) address changed. Any money sent is lost to the fraudster.

Buy and Sell Scam: Victims of this popular type of online scam are often purchasing or selling goods on websites such as Kijiji. Sellers may be asked to send the goods prior to receiving payment or sent a cheque and asked to deposit surplus funds to another account (see Secret Shopper scam). On the other hand, purchasers may be asked to send funds before receiving the goods or be sold fraudulent or unlawfully obtained merchandise. Because of the nature of online transactions, it is difficult for victims to know they have been scammed until it is too late and their money and/or goods are lost.

Members of the Halton Regional Police Service Regional Fraud Unit offer the following tips to help protect individuals from the above kinds of online scams:

  1. Banks will never ask your password or bank card/credit card number. Do not provide it in response to an email, text message or other online correspondence received.
  2. Pay close attention to the sender email address of all seemingly legitimate correspondence from banks or service providers.
  3. Always confirm requests to deposit large sums of money directly with the person requesting it. Send them a new email or telephone them. Do not hit reply to the original email.
  4. When purchasing goods online, endeavour to complete transactions in person in a well-lit, trafficked place such as a Halton Regional Police Service public parking lot, coffee shop or mall. Examine items closely and if they are not as advertised, walk away.
  5. Avoid using cash to pay for items purchased online. Companies like PayPal offer secure payment options and limited protection against fraud.

Anyone with information pertaining to a fraud or any other crime is asked to contact the Regional Fraud Bureau Intake Office at 905-465-8741 or Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers “See something, Hear something, Say something” at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), through the web at, or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637 (crimes).



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