SAANICH PENINSULA, BC–This March, during National Fraud Prevention Month, the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP Detachment, along with the Town of Sidney and the District of North Saanich, is encouraging residents to learn how to spot and say no to scammers.
RCMP data indicate that scams and fraud are on the rise. In 2021, reported losses due to scams in Sidney and North Saanich increased 73 per cent over 2020 figures, with a total reported loss of $664,021. The RCMP also report a 48 per cent increase in the number of victims who reported a financial loss due to fraud in 2021. Reported fraud continues to trend upwards in 2022.
Scams in the Sidney and North Saanich region primarily take place over the phone and by email. Scams come in many forms and can sound very convincing, often coming from someone posing to be a trusted person or representing an organization like Revenue Canada.
One recent, local example highlights the lengths to which fraudsters will prey upon their victims, exploiting emotions and leveraging technology to swindle people out of their money.
In February 2022, a Saanich Peninsula couple, who have asked to remain anonymous, received a phone call from a male who purported to be their son, claiming that he had suffered facial injuries, affecting his speech, and was in jail. Another man, claiming to be their son’s lawyer, joined the call to embellish the narrative: he told the couple their son had crashed into the back of another vehicle, critically injuring a baby. The scammer demanded the couple transfer a large amount of money to cover the fines and bail amount.
After the couple complied, the scammers doubled down on their fictional narrative and demanded even more money. The victims complied, losing thousands of dollars. They learned later that their son had not been in an accident, and that they had been scammed.
“The rise in fraudulent behaviour is extremely concerning, particularly as these scams often target folks by exploiting their emotional and situational vulnerabilities,” said District of North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr. “I am grateful that the local RCMP continues to raise awareness about this manipulative and deplorable criminal activity.”
“It is difficult to see that the people of Sidney and North Saanich are losing significant amounts of money each year to scammers that prey on their trust and goodwill,” said Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith. “It is important that we begin talking more about this prevalent issue so community members are better prepared to spot and avoid scams.”
“I hope that Fraud Prevention Month is a wake-up call for community members in Sidney and North Saanich. Our communities are being targeted by sophisticated scammers, including those who gather personal information from our social media accounts and other sources to create very realistic appeals for money or gift cards,” said Sidney and North Saanich RCMP Staff Sergeant Wayne Conley. “Fraud looks very different than it did in the past. But despite the increasing sophistication, residents can prevent this crime by learning how to identify fraudulent behaviour and turn away would-be scammers.“
Residents are encouraged to watch the local RCMP Detachment website throughout March for anti-fraud resources and local learning opportunities: sidney.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
Beyond exercising due diligence, residents are encouraged to trust their instincts. If residents are unsure why someone is asking for money over the phone, feeling pressured to transfer funds, or simply feel uncomfortable with a situation, they are encouraged to reach out to the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP Detachment at 250-656-3931.
Officers are happy to assist residents in identifying potentially-fraudulent criminal behaviour.