A would-be identity thief tried to pull a fast one on a Nanaimo finance professional last week.
Elaine Duke, a Nanaimo mortgage broker with a background in banking, received a convincing call from a man who claimed to work for CIBC on Saturday.
She was shocked by the level of sophistication employed by the person on the other side of the phone and has renewed a warning to her clients to maintain a close guard over their information.
"These guys are getting really smooth now," she said.
Duke's phone rang on Saturday morning and displayed a 905 area-code, indicating that the call originated from the Toronto area.
A man on the other side of the phone had a simple and plausible offer for Duke. Because of her excellent standing with the bank, she was being offered a new low-interest credit card.
Duke said she could hear numerous voices in the background. For all intents and purposes, it seemed like a legitimate contact from a call centre in southwestern Ontario.
In order to activate the offer, the man said, he needed Duke's birth date.
"I almost gave it to them," said Duke. "But I said, 'well, I need to verify your identity. Can you give me a couple recent transactions (from my account)?"
The man said he would comply once he received Duke's date of birth, so she returned by requesting him to identify a CIBC branch and transit number in Nanaimo.
The man hung up the phone. Fortunately, Duke had written down the phone number. But when she called back, she found the digits displayed on her phone led to an out-of-service line.
She suspected the call may have come from overseas, using a masked number.
"With all the sharing of information on the Internet . . . identity theft is becoming a huge, huge problem," she said.
She pointed to clients of hers who have had potential fraudsters apply for credit in their name and warned residents not to give out personal information over the phone, even something as simple as a birth date.
The Nanaimo RCMP agree. According to police, the use of a fake number, or 'spoofing,' is common practice among scam artists.
"You can't trace things back," said Staff Sgt. Sorab Rupa. "You can have a call centre in one country doing crime in another.
If you catch somebody, it's hard to extradite."
Rupa said the most important thing is for residents to be aware. "Do not give out private information, especially over the phone or Internet, to anybody," he said.
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