The Ontario Provincial Police is urging Canadian consumers to be wary of unsolicited offers they receive from companies that say they can help lower their interest rates on their loans and credit cards.
According to the OPP's Anti-Rackets Branch, a considerable number of consumers throughout Canada have received phone calls from individuals who claim to be affiliated with credit card companies and make offers that claim to help reduce their interest fees.
"What the callers really want is the processing fee, which is usually paid by credit card," the OPP notes. "Some even follow-up with a fraudulent client acknowledgement or cancellation clause that reimburse the amount excluding a 'retainer fee.'"
Last year alone, the OPP's Anti-Fraud Centre received nearly 1,000 complaints from consumers who said they were contacted by a fraudster, who stated they could help lower their interest rates in return for some type of fee. Of these, 173 victims reported losses in excess of $133,000.
Scott Tod, head of investigations and organized crime for the OPP, noted that criminal telemarketers are very persistent and will say whatever it takes in order to convince the people they're calling that they are who they claim to be. But the OPP says consumers should not be fooled, as legitimate interest rate reduction offers will not ask for money.
"You have just as much clout with your credit card issuer as these companies say they do," said Paul Beesley, detective for the OPP's Anti-Rackets Branch. "All the criminals want is easy access to small amounts of money - a pattern they repeat thousands of times a week across the country."
He added that individuals can prevent themselves from being victimized by hanging up the phone when they receive these type of calls, as more often than not they are from criminals. Consumers should only trust reputable firms or companies they seek out themselves online.
But consumers aren't the only ones who are being attacked by fraudsters. According to the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada, small and medium-sized business operations are as well.
A recent report commissioned by CGA-Canada - "Does Canada Have a Problem with Occupational Fraud" - notes that approximately 25 per cent of Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises were affected by fraud in the past year, often by their own workers.
To make companies more aware of these potential pitfalls, CGA-Canada has released an online video about workplace fraud. It shows how businesses can be affected by employees who they think are honest and hardworking but are in reality taking advantage of the company by engaging in fraudulent activities.
CGA notes that 80 per cent of SMEs do not have a fraud prevention or response plan in place. To help companies establish one, it's published five prevention tips for businesses, including raising awareness to the issue, how to spot warning signs, techniques for catching the fraudster in the act of committing the crime and how fraud can be rooted out.