Internet fraud, by phone

Barb LaChapelle's phone rang at 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning.

Barb LaChapelle’s phone rang at 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning.

It woke her up.

The manager of a 50-unit townhouse complex thought it may have been a tenant with an emergency.

It wasn’t.

The person on the other end identified themselves as an international internet watchdog, said LaChapelle. They said they could see many problems with her computer and instructed her to follow their advice.

After a few quick commands, she was supposed to type in “eventvwr” and hit “enter.”

But LaChapelle had a feeling something wasn’t right.

“How are they supposed to be able to see this out of the billions of computers that are out there?” she said. “Not to mention the fact that they called me at 6:30 in the morning. A reputable company isn’t going to call at that hour.”

It was a woman on the other end, and she had a very heavy East Indian accent, said LaChapelle.

“And I could hear hundreds of other people in the background making the exact same phone call,” she said.

LaChapelle told the woman that instead, she would write it all down and talk with her computer tech before doing anything with it.

The woman advised against it, warning LaChapelle that her computer was about to crash at any minute.

LaChapelle told her five times that she was not going to type anything into her computer.

On the fifth time, the woman on the other end hung up.

The phone number that appeared on LaChapelle’s caller ID was 760-705-8888 – a California area code.

LaChapelle immediately called the RCMP.

They told her to report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

She did.

“They said that they had heard of this before,” said LaChapelle. “And that the second you type that information into your computer, it gives them access to everything on your hard drive. So there’s potential for sending viruses, potential for getting credit card information and your banking information.”

The next thing LaChapelle did was call her elderly mother.

They are neighbours.

By about 10 a.m. they had called her mother as well.

But the 87-year-old was prepared.

“She basically told them right off,” said LaChapelle, laughing. “She told them, ‘You know, I’m right next door to the one you called this morning. I’m fully aware of your scam. If you think that Yukoners are a bunch of idiots, you’re sadly mistaken.’”

LaChappelle worries that other people may not be forewarned.

And it’s not only older people who are vulnerable, she said.

Younger people are very dependent on technology, she pointed out. “They rely on their computers and they’d fall for something like that.”

LaChapelle wants everyone to be aware of the fraud and that they should not follow the instructions they are given.

Whitehorse RCMP are also encouraging people to be cautious with both phone calls and emails.

It is important to be skeptical and do your due diligence to verify who you are speaking with, said Cpl. Randy Reed from the commercial crime section.

But that is getting harder and harder to do.

“There is an increased level of sophistication on the part of fraudsters that we’re seeing here over the past several years,” he said.

They’re doing better jobs of making things appear real, and they are getting bigger.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reported more than 105,000 calls within 10 months last year.

They also say less than five per cent of scams are reported, said Reed.

And there are different variations to the scam that touched LaChapelle, he said. Most work to track personal computer use, steal identity and personal information and inundate computers with harmful viruses.

“They’re not stupid what they’re doing,” said LaChapelle. “Hopefully a lot of people aren’t stupid enough to fall for it.”

The phone number for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is 1-888-495-8501.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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