By David F. Rooney
The $3,997 cheque Maria Stagliano received in the mail a couple of days looked good — too good, in fact. And her suspicions were confirmed after a few minutes spent reading the come-on written by a scammer posing a representative for an alleged mystery shopper program.
“It made me nervous,” she said Thursday. “There was no return address on the envelope. That wasn’t right.”
The cheque itself looks almost real until you realize is is printed on regular paper and the signatures on it are not only illegible but scanned onto the paper as well. Maria’s suspicions were confirmed once she read the documents that accompanied it — it was a scam.
“It’s just that there are so many seniors in town who’d think they actually received a real cheque,” Maria said.
The cheque isn’t real and, in fact, the information sent to her, allegedly by a Western Union subsidiary called Comfort House, cautions the recipient not to try and cash it … yet
“Please do not act on this notice until you speak with an assignment Coordinator at 1-450-369-1703 in other to activate your check,” the poorly written instructions say. “It is important you maintain a fair and unbiased opinion when completing the customer service evaluation tool (CSET).”
The instructions also asked Maria to transfer $1,750 to someone called Min Seuk Kim and $1,457.29 to a person called Chris Burleigh.
This is all so much manure and it is obvious manure, but con artists rely on their victims’ willingness to suspend their common sense when it appears that they gain some kind of windfall.
There were a couple of other clues to the shadiness of this scam. The plain white envelop bore no return address. It was addressed to Maria’s legitimate PO Box and that makes her think there is some kind of data base floating around the Internet that contains details like that. The cancellation mark on the letter’s stamp contained the postal code N8W 4W0. N8W is the code for Windsor, Ontario, but the last three digits, 4W0, appear to be bogus . Another give away are the phone numbers contained in the document. 1-450-369-1703 and 1-519-992-7922 are in, respectively, Valleyfield, Quebec, and Windsor, while two fax lines — 734-778-7849 and 866-393-2850 — appear to be based somewhere in Michigan.
Maria reported this scam to the local RCMP who advised her to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center (this is the new name for Phone Busters). She spent 45 minutes on hold, which suggests that there are a lot of people being targetted by scammers.
It should be noted that there is a real company called Custom House and it is part of Western Union. It does not operate a mystery shopper program. Based in Victoria, BC, it is a foreign exchange and global payments provider.
The best thing to do when you think something may be too good to be true is to heed that intuition!
QUICK FACTS ABOUT FRAUD IN CANADA
What Canadians lost to mass marketing fraud from in the first six months of 2012 : $35 million
Victims in that time: 7,258
Complaints to Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in that time: 22,215
- Never give out personal information over the phone or online.
- Be wary if someone is pressuring you.
- Research the company you’re dealing with; get a phone number and call them back.
- If it seems too good to be true, it is.
- Report suspicions to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, at 1-888-495-8501, or the RCMP.