Online fraud scams on the rise in Niagara Region: police

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Niagara police are warning residents about a recent spike in online fraud scams throughout the region.

Police say the rise is partly due to the fact people are spending more time on the internet because of COVID-19.

They say with more businesses and consumers moving to online sales, people are more susceptible to falling victim to web-based scams.

Police are informing residents of some of the most common scams and tips on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.

Sextortion Scam
The victim receives an email stating that their computer was hacked. The scammers provide an old password of the user that they found in a previous data breach. The criminal then demands Bitcoin and threatens they will release compromising photos of the user to their friends and family. Police say it is likely the victim’s computer has not been compromised and the scammers are just hoping the user will send them Bitcoin.

Puppy Scam
With so many people isolating and experiencing loneliness they are seeking companionship. One of the scams on the rise involves online listings for puppies. Many scammers are asking for money upfront to hold a puppy which is usually sent out of the province by wire transfer or Bitcoin. Police say before sending any money, do your homework and make sure you’re dealing with a reputable breeder. Search the email address, telephone number or any other information to see if there are fraud complaints or positive reviews for the seller.

Online Buyers
The use of online e-commerce sites has skyrocketed to make durable goods purchases. If you’re dealing with an unknown person or website to make an online sale, be cautious if the seller request money is sent via Bitcoin, wire transfer, or electronic fund transfer (EFT). Most reputable sellers will use an online payment processor to conduct their transactions. Consider using a third-party payment provider who protects your purchase. If it seems too good to be true it probably is.

Online Sellers
People who are selling items online are at risk too. Sometimes a buyer of an item will overpay by a fraudulent cheque or transfer and request funds be sent back to them or have them forward the over-payment to a fraudulent shipping company. By the time the fraudulent payment is discovered the funds are already collected. If you have any doubts about a payment attempt to confirm the payments with the bank and wait for the payment to clear.

If you believe you are a victim of a scam, contact Niagara police. If you sustained no loss, you can report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center.