Holiday season: High time for Phishers and Fraudsters

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Holiday season: High time for Phishers and Fraudsters

As some folks are experiencing, I no longer accept telephone calls from “blocked”, “unknown” or “no caller id” numbers.  I also avoid calls from unusual area codes or from telephone numbers that I have already identified as suspicious.  I do not respond to marketing emails, faxes, texts, telephone calls or other potentially fraudulent or harassing communications.

Simply, if you cannot identify yourself, I will not answer. 

The reason for this is that the vast majority of these connections are made by persons involved in fraudulent activity or unsolicited marketing. This includes “phishing” – a fraudulent practice of sending communications for the purpose of inducing the target to reveal personal information.  This includes Internet scammers -- people who try to convince me to send them money because my business needs their help when I know it does not. This includes robocalls --  automated telephone calls or other messages (such as text) who mass deliver pre-recorded messages for the purpose of making connections.  Unfortunately, this also includes businesses engaged in legitimate marketing activities, but who now sadly do so in a space dominated by criminals.  These businesses have always been annoying – to the point of harassing – but now cannot be differentiated from the plethora of villains who use the Internet and telephone to anonymously attempt to coax information or money out of unsuspecting victims.  

In the opinion of this Calgary criminal lawyer, we should not be engaging with telemarketers or internet marketers of any kind. This is so because it is virtually impossible to know whether the caller (or communication) is legitimate. Even communications from the CRA should be viewed with extreme scepticism. I am sure many of us have had the robocall from the police or Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) commanding a return call because there is a warrant for our arrest. When returned, Anglicized Trevor (with a thick accent) phishes for personal information; perhaps even asking for money or a gift card.

Stop answering these calls!  Stop responding to these emails!  Stop returning these texts!  If we stop, then the fraudsters and telemarketers are wasting their time and will have no choice but to re-evaluate their business model.

Every person who engages a fraudster or telemarketer becomes a target. From personal experience, I suggest that around 60-80% of the telephone calls to my private home number are telemarketing or scams.  Interestingly, other than my telephone service provider, nobody – including friends or family – has this private number. This begs the question: if nobody has my number, how do these people have it?  

My business is exposed to a daily onslaught of harassment and fraud; so much so that I was forced to cancel my public fax number because scammers and marketers abused the service.  The amount of fax paper wasted due to abuses by roofing companies, steel building sellers and Internet scammers was not only costly and environmentally wasteful, but concerning in the extreme.  Even when asked, these companies would not stop.

In my view, one of the most tragic consequences of Internet, fax and telephone abuses is that they are directly responsible for creating extreme mistrust in our fellow human beings.  This is so because all of us who are legitimately attempting to beneficially use the technology are becoming victims of the technology. Even if a person intelligently never exposes their money or personal information, they are still routinely harassed by those looking to take advantage of their trust. In the old days, the annoyance was nothing more than harassment at dinnertime; today it is a ubiquitous risk that attacks our resources on a variety of levels. 

Sadly, the only response for businesses and individuals is to become less accessible; and for this, I am truly sorry.

As a criminal defence lawyer in Alberta, it is important that people have access to my legal services. Unfortunately, in light of the actions of others, I have no choice but to restrict access. In large measure, this is necessary because I simply don’t have the time or resources to waste on filtering illegitimate communications. I am aware that Crown Prosecutor’s, other lawyers and inmates at various prisons and remand centres may be attempting to connect with me. When they do so from an unknown or blocked number, I simply don’t answer.  This lack of responsiveness is even more problematic because my email inbox is inundated daily by Internet Scammers and questionable marketers – meaning that the likelihood of me overlooking an important email is increased because I am busy sifting through unwanted communications that simply don’t belong.

If you are searching for a criminal defence lawyer, please keep in mind that all of us are managing these challenges. If you are legitimately in need of legal services, I recommend that you identify yourself as clearly as possible to ensure that your counsel of choice is more easily accessible.

Unless you are running a customer focussed business, it's very likely that your list of personal contacts is quite small. My advice, if you receive a call from an unknown contact, don't answer. If you receive a call from an area code that has no business calling, don't answer. After all, why is Bangladesh or even North Carolina attempting to connect with you? Let them leave a message.

This is important because the collection of personal information is analogous to death by a thousand cuts. Unknowingly offer a bit of information here, accidentally offer a bit more information there and the scammer may have enough information to cause serious injury.  Best to mitigate risk by not risking any information at all.  The sound of your voice could be all the fraudster is looking for.

The holiday season is high time for phishers, scammers, Telemarketers and Internet fraudsters.  Please be protect yourself and have a very happy holiday.