Phone scam targets Syrian refugees, N.B. consumer protection agency warns

SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- New Brunswick's consumer protection organization is warning the public about a series of phone scams targeting women, small businesses and Syrian refugees.

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The Financial and Consumer Services Commission says in one scheme, a Syrian family in Saint John lost about $400 after it was contacted by someone seeking money and banking information in exchange for English lessons.

CEO Rick Hancox said the Crown corporation is only aware of one family that has been targeted, although he believes scammers will likely seek out more newcomers to Canada.

"The nature of these kinds of frauds is that they typically follow the headlines," said Hancox. "The underlying scheme is the same and they just apply it to the latest headline and go from there."

Hancox said refugees and new immigrants are particularly vulnerable to fraud schemes because they are adjusting to new surroundings and a new culture.

"Their experience is the environment that they have come from and a lot of times that's very different from the Canadian environment," he said.

As an example, Hancox said newcomers might not be aware that Revenue Canada doesn't call people up and threaten to have them arrested.

The commission also warned about a pyramid network described as a pay-it-forward cloud that leads participants to believe a gifting club will generate a return of up to 800 per cent.

Potential members have been asked to make an investment ranging from $1,200 for a return of $10,000.

In western New Brunswick, a woman claiming to be hearing impaired contacted a photography business and wanted to buy services for a wedding and insisted the business charge an additional amount to a credit card for a wedding planner.

The RCMP says it is aware of the calls to businesses in western New Brunswick, but no formal complaints were made.

Hancox said the level of fraud activity is not out of the ordinary.

"Anybody that follows their emails, there's always somebody coming through with something whether it's a cruise or you've won a lottery thing," said Hancox.

He said people need to be aware that fraud schemes are constantly going on and that they should never provide such things as personal banking information through contacts that are not solicited.


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