Andrea Rondeau column: Persistence makes scams seem more plausible

Andrea Rondeau column: Persistence makes scams seem more plausible

When laid out in the newspaper, the scams seem so obvious. How do they make any money?

When laid out in the newspaper, the scams seem so obvious. How do they make any money?

That was the conversation around the newsroom one day this week.

Because they must make money, or the criminals wouldn’t continue to perpetrate them. According to the Better Business Bureau, the scam reported to us by a Duncan man where he received repeated and threatening calls purporting to be from the Canada Revenue Agency, has taken in $5 million and counting.

Here’s how it goes, in a nutshell. Note that there are variations on the scam. You get a phone call that’s a recording, claiming to be from the CRA. They tell you that you owe a bunch of money and you must contact them immediately to avoid legal consequences. In the case of the Duncan man, they called him back numerous times, getting more and more threatening on each occasion, as he continued to ignore the calls. Finally, they claim that if you don’t call back right away, police will be sent to your home to arrest you.

Of course, the CRA does not operate in this manner. They don’t generally contact folks by phone or email. And if they were going to send someone to arrest you, they certainly wouldn’t warn you first. They are absolutely not going to ask you to ever pay in bitcoin.

It seems so obvious. Why do people fall for it? In a word, fear. There’s a certain fear for authority that gets the heart beating faster, even if you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s the same reason that just sitting in the doctor’s office or the dentist’s office can make your heart pound. It’s why most of us would break out into a sweat when faced with a lie detector test, no matter what the test is for.

As I pondered the situation, I also realized that, when it’s a case like the Duncan man experienced, the fact that they called repeatedly over time can seem, to someone at all prone to anxiety, to lend the whole thing a legitimacy it does not possess. One could easily start to ask oneself, why would they keep phoning back if it’s all a scam? Would they waste their time? Maybe you should just call back to make sure…

That last is not a bad idea. BUT, do not use the number they’ve provided. Find your own number for the CRA and give them a call if you need to ease your mind.

And if you’re unsure, mention it to a practical-minded friend. As soon as you say it out loud, all of the absurdities become apparent.