GUYSBOROUGH — If you think that just because you mind your own business and live in one of Nova Scotia’s safest areas, you are immune to scams, the province’s RCMP financial crimes expert Sgt. Andrew Joyce has a message for residents of Guysborough County: Think again.
“I’d love to come to Guysborough and talk to everyone for an hour,” he said. “Fraudsters and scammers operate 24/7. It is a very lucrative business, and police are not having a lot of success getting victims’ monies back. We’re all vulnerable and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you live.”
Last year, the RCMP reported that Guysborough County folks lost more than a quarter-million dollars to phone, text and email scammers in 2021. The frauds ranged from those involving investment, prize, merchandise and missing person schemes to outright cyber-attacks and extortion. There were even two reports involving “romance pitches” in which grifters made off with $142,068 of the victim’s money, which amounted to nearly half the $261,000 value of all frauds in the county last year.
Nova Scotians lost a record $2.5 million to fraudsters in 2021, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. That was up from just more than $790,000 in 2020, an increase of more than 331 per cent.
“Scammers are not limiting their targets to those who live in large communities. Police have noticed that they are getting more and more sophisticated at their craft by mining data on social media… everyone is fair-game,” Joyce told The Journal, at the time.
Although updated stats are not yet available, he said last week, “I believe that countrywide and across the province, we are definitely growing... Here’s the thing: Only five to 10 per cent of the frauds committed are actually reported.”
There may be a good reason.
“There’s hundreds and hundreds of different frauds and scams out there,” he said. “The crimes are getting more sophisticated. The technology is getting more sophisticated. The fraudsters can trick the victims into having a sense of trust.”
For example, he said, “If you use media, your voice is probably on the Internet a fair amount. They can then take your voice, the inflections and the accents and everything, and using an AI (artificial intelligence) program make it say anything they wish. And its sounds just like you. It’s scary.”
Still, he said, forewarned is forearmed.
“I tell people to look out for five things: unsolicited contact that involves your money or personal information; a sense of urgency from the contact; a request for gift cards or cryptocurrency; threats about [pending] police or government [action]; and the fact that the contact is not available to meet but only wants to take down your payment or personal information...Bottom line: No matter who you are or where you live, you can’t drop your guard.”