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

David Screech falls vic­tim to ID thief

Times Colonist - - Front Page - AN­DREW A. DUFFY

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.

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 250995-7654 and the Cana­dian An­tiFraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501.

SUB­MIT­TED

David Screech said some­one used his lo­gin in­for­ma­tion to ac­cess his Canada Rev­enue Agency ac­count.

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