Personal data of View Royal mayor used in $4,000 scam

There will be a flurry of password changes and account checks in the Screech household this week after the View Royal mayor’s personal information was compromised over the weekend and used by someone in Ontario to apply for pandemic financial relief.

David Screech said he found out by email that on Saturday someone had used his login information to access his online Canada Revenue Agency account, which holds a trove of personal detail. In a legitimate email from the CRA, Screech was told his email address would no longer be used by the CRA for correspondence.

article continues below

Screech then logged into his account and found that his email had been changed as had his direct deposit information. He found that someone using his name and social insurance number had opened an account in Ontario and applied for $4,000 from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program.

“It feels very personal when someone actually gets into your tax account and applies for CERB benefits under your name,” said Screech, fresh off a three-hour call with the CRA on Tuesday. “If I hadn’t gotten the email saying ‘we will no longer use this email address as requested by you’ … that’s the only inkling I had.”

Screech said it’s his first brush with identity theft, though he has had his credit card compromised in the past.

“But I think that’s happened to all of us at some point,” he said.

“It is disconcerting for sure when someone has your social insurance number and you start thinking of all the problems that could result from it and how someone could be using it.

“You always have the attitude it would never happen to me so it’s doubly amazing when it does.”

Screech said the CRA has been helpful and has frozen his CRA account and flagged his social insurance number. The agency will be working with him over the next week to deal with the fallout.

During his call with the CRA, the agency put Screech on hold in order to cancel payment of the CERB money.

“[The CRA] didn’t sound surprised at all. They were very sympathetic and sincere and understood how upsetting it was, but I did get the impression it was pretty routine,” Screech recalled.

That’s because COVID-19 related fraud is all too common these days.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, between March 6 and the end of July there were 2,770 reports of pandemic-related fraud with 1,729 Canadian victims losing more than $5.55 million.

Through the first six months of this year there have been more than 28,000 reports of all kinds of fraud with 13,032 victims claiming a loss of more than $51 million in Canada.

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada issued a special bulletin last month noting some changes in fraud and money-laundering activities.

The report said closures of casinos and physical-distancing measures had disrupted some money-laundering methods and could lead to criminals looking for new ways to integrate illicit proceeds into the financial system.

It also pointed out there has been an increase in some types of fraud, notably online phishing scams looking for personal information in order to apply for pandemic benefits, merchandise fraud taking advantage of people looking for personal protective equipment and cleaning services, and identity theft for the purpose of accessing emergency benefits.

Screech said he was disappointed that no one could explain how the criminals managed to get into his CRA account as even with a user name and password there are still security questions to be answered before access is granted.

“[CRA] couldn’t quite explain how they had answered those questions,” he said. “It’s a reminder to be vigilant and change login details from time to time.”

The Canada Revenue Agency was not available for comment Tuesday.

Victoria police have regularly reminded citizens during the pandemic that scam artists will go to all kinds of lengths to defraud people, including posing as family members in trouble, trusted companies and even the police.

The police also remind anyone who believes they have been victims of fraud to report it to them and to their financial institutions, ensure all payments that have not been authorized are stopped, and change passwords and login details regularly.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre said if you suspect someone is using your social insurance number you should contact Service Canada and have available documents to prove the misuse of your number and an original identity document like a birth certificate.

Suspected frauds can be reported to Victoria police at 250-995-7654 and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist

Find out what's happening in your community.

Most Popular