Ottawa police are warning residents of a letter scam.
The “mystery shopper” fraud targets residents by sending them a letter containing a cheque from a well-known bank. The cheque is invalid and by the time the scam is realized, the recipient is held responsible for the outstanding funds.
“The letter encourages the recipient to participate in a mystery shopper opportunity in return for cash,” said the police in a release. “The recipient is asked to cash the cheque and transfer a portion of it to another account – (the) account number provided by the company.”
If a person follows the instructions, it makes them an accessory to the offence. The victim is encouraged to keep the remaining portion of the cheque as payment “for acting as a mystery shopper assessing the customer service received at the bank,” said police.
At least two people in the Kanata area have reported the scam, said Const. Lori Fahey of the Kanata/Stittsville community police centre.
Fahey said people can report fraudulent letters to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501.
“Be cautious of all unsolicited correspondence and sales,” she said.
If a person has suffered a financial loss, then they are asked to file a report with police by calling 613-236-1222, ext. 7300.
“Call it in,” Fahey said, adding sending an email to an officer isn’t the same as filing a report.
Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson discussed the problem at her ward council meeting on Nov. 26. A resident reported receiving one of the letters. She said she and her husband contacted the bank listed on the cheque and were told it was a scam.
“(The police) have had several complaints about it,” said Wilkinson. “If something seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true.”
Fahey said she’s received complaints of another scam involving Internet providers, computer programs and virus detection.
A caller pretending to be from a well-known company with a call centre based in Asia or India will call people and tell them a virus has been detected on their computer.
The caller asks the target to go to a website where they can download anti-virus protection software for $49 and asks for the target’s credit card information over the phone or through the website.
“They’ve got your money and you don’t get anything,” said Fahey. “It’s very difficult to trace it.”
She said it’s important to research all companies before doing business.
“Do not provide personal information over the phone,” said Fahey.
Fahey added there have been reports of insistent hot water tank rental representatives going door-to-door.
“People are finding them very aggressive,” she said. “If you ask them to leave and they don’t, give us a call.”
It can be intimidating to have a person like that at the door, but, “Your front door is yours so feel free to close it to unwanted solicitation,” said Fahey.
To report aggressive sales people who will not leave, call 613-230-6211.