Fraud is on the rise and Central Albertans have more reason than most to be wary.
A recent survey found people in this province have a 42 per cent higher chance of being bilked than other Canadians, because Alberta is targeted by more scam artists, said Red Deer City RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Kathe DeHeer.
“Part of that they’re attributing to the recent boom in Alberta, and all the money that we have,” said DeHeer, who noted the growing number of scams aren’t subsiding, despite the economic downturn.
Laid-off oilfield workers are the latest to be ripped off.
The Advocate learned one local man applied for a job on an off-shore rig in Nigeria and was told to send a $1,500 money order to cover the cost of work permits in that country.
Before sending the money order, the man discovered several other local oilfield workers had lost up to $2,000 in the same fraud, which was easy to fall for, since the fake company used the name of an actual well-known oil company in the Internet ad.
DeHeer said, “It’s easy to trick people over the Internet.” She recommends getting a company’s phone number from directory assistance and checking whether a job posting is legitimate. Even better, try to meet with a company representative face-to-face.
She stressed it should not cost anything to apply for a job. “The company should be paying for (permits) if they want to hire you.”
Watch out whenever money is requested — especially in the form of money orders, which are impossible to trace, said DeHeer. “If someone’s asking you for a money order, it should send up huge red flags.”
DeHeer recently heard about a secret shopper job scam that promised high wages.
Applicants received a large cheque from the fraudulent ‘employer,’ with instructions to cash it and buy a few low-cost items, for which they were to do price comparisons. They were to keep some money for their own wages and send back whatever remained of the cheque that was not spent.
“They might have sent you a cheque for $3,000 and asked you to buy a can of spaghetti,” said DeHeer, who added the company’s cheque was later found to be fraudulent. The people who sent back money from their own bank accounts lost, in some cases, thousands of dollars.
If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is, said DeHeer, who recommends checking out prospective employers with Service Alberta, phonebusters.com, and even the police.
Another scam affected an individual who wanted to rent a house in Red Deer. The person was told to send a money order for the first month’s rent and damage deposit overseas, since the home owner was living in Africa.
There was no house, and the person lost $1,400.
DeHeer said fraud artists copy local home rental ads and later run them, even though they have no house to rent. “Before you send any money outside of Canada, do a lot of research.”
DeHeer said a renter should be able to tour the actual house and meet the owner. Out-of-town owners generally hire local management companies to look after the home.
“You need to have some face-to-face . . . and never send anything sight unseen.”