Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: RCMP

Fraudulent calls from the Service Canada legal department

If you live in Canada, you need no explanation of that headline. We get those calls several times a week, up to three times in one day. The call display on our phone shows a different number each time, often what appears to be a local number. When we answer, we hear a message that our Social Insurance Number has been detected being used for fraudulent purposes and a warrant has been issued for our arrest. We are urged to press a button to speak to a supervisor to resolve the problem and avoid dire consequences.

Image by Sammy-Williams from Pixabay 

For people outside of Canada, Service Canada is the government agency that administers programs such as Employment Insurance, Old Age Security, the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Child Benefit, etc. Each Canadian is issued a nine digit Social Insurance Number (SIN) to identify ourselves for these programs. Employers need to know our SIN, because they have to make deductions from our paycheque for Employment Insurance and Canada Pension Plan. Financial institutions from which we receive interest or investment income need to know our SIN in order to report those income amounts to the government. We are not required to provide our SIN to any other organisation, though it is not illegal for them to ask for it.

Most of us know that these calls purporting to come from the legal department of Service Canada are fraudulent. After receiving enough such calls, we hang up as soon as we recognize the familiar voice. Yet over the past three months the people behind this fraud have succeeded in defrauding 779 individuals of a total $1.5 million. These are almost exclusively vulnerable people such as the elderly who tend to believe anyone sounding official, or newcomers to Canada who do not realize that no government department would demand money in such a way.

Tristan Péloquin, a reporter from the Montreal French-language daily la Presse, recently followed the instructions given by the fraudulent caller to be able to tell how it works. If you read French, his article is here. He was told that 25 bank accounts had been opened using his SIN and all were being used for illegal purposes. When he denied having anything to do with such accounts, he was told that his SIN number would be cancelled and a new one issued. But first he would have to withdraw all his money from his bank account, or accounts, place the money in a special holding account and close those accounts. He would then be able to open a new account using the new SIN and transfer the money to that account. Unfortunately, that holding account was a bitcoin account and if he would have followed through the money would have been gone without any means of tracing it.

According to the RCMP, these calls are coming from India and they are working with the police in India. It is complicated and slow work when the fraud is committed in one country and the perpetrators are in a different country. In 2018 they succeeded in getting several fraudulent call centres in India closed and 45 people arrested. No doubt they will eventually succeed this time also, but the fraud is lucrative enough that others will start up using a slightly different line.

Phone companies are working on technology to block these calls. That is complicated when the fraudsters have the means to spoof numbers that appear to be local and keep on changing them. Mr. Péloquin reports that Telus is offering an ingenious option. When a call comes from an unfamiliar number, the caller gets a message asking them to press one additional number on the keypad, any number. A call coming from a robotic dialling device cannot do this and the call aborts. A live caller pushes a number and the call goes through.

Most people are discerning enough not to bite on such threatening phone calls, or on emails offering free gift cards from Canada Post or Walmart. Those emails are trying to obtain personal information for fraudulent purposes. But there are enough people who do not have such an internal warning system to make these scams profitable. I am thankful for news reports like the one in la Presse that help to reduce the number of people vulnerable to such frauds.

No longer alone

It was a small wedding, just a few of our family and friends. I remember that we barely made it to the church on time and I remember when we signed our marriage certificate. My meory doesn’t seem to have recorded anything else, but that’s the important stuff anyway – we were there and we got married. Later that afternoon we left to spend our honeymoon at Lake Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park. In the middle of our first night together Chris woke up, startled and a little disoriented, saying, “I just dreamed that we were married!.”

We’ve been living that dream for almost 48 years now. Like most dreams, it has had twists and turns when we wondered how it would turn out. Now we’re old folks and still together.

They tell you that two become one when you marry. They don’t tell you (or maybe I just wasn’t listening when it was told) how hard it will be to change the old habits of singlehood. As a bachelor, I had washed dishes when I had nothing left to cook with or eat from. Socks and shirts stayed where they dropped when I took them off. Every couple weeks I would go round the house, gather my dirty clothes and take them to the laundromat. I kind of knew my bride wouldn’t be charmed by those old habits,  but they died hard.

I wanted a Christian home, but had little idea what that might involve. The first night after we settled into our home in Sperling, Chris told me she wanted us to read the Bible and pray together. That is, she wanted me to take the lead in doing it. I resisted, she insisted. Once begun it became a practice that has continued to this day.

Chris had finished Grade 11 when living at Kelliher with her uncle. Now she enrolled in Grade 12 in Carman, the second town west of Sperling and caught the school bus early each morning.  That didn’t last long. Being a newcomer and the only married person in the class left her out of the social whirl of school. She decided that she had more important things to do at home.

Before we were married, I tried teaching her to drive my pickup truck. It had a standard transmission with the shift lever on the steering column. We drove out of Belle Plaine onto Highway Number One, the Trans-Canada, and I sat close beside her to coach. This was easier back in the days before seat belts and bucket seats. An RCMP officer stopped us and asked what was happening. Chris showed her learner’s permit and I my driver’s license and explained that I was trying to coach a driver who was unfamiliar with manual transmissions. He was a nice guy, he didn’t snicker or give us a ticket, just suggested that Chris might manage better if I didn’t sit so close.

Now that we were settled down, she enrolled in Driver’s Ed in Carman. I had traded the pickup for a car with automatic transmission and soon she was able to do the grocery shopping while I was at work.

Chris had never heard of Mennonites before she met me, but decided that if I wanted to be a Mennonite she did too. There were Mennonite churches of various kinds within a 15 or 20 minute drive from Sperling. I didn’t know much about any of them and stalled at trying to find out. One day I came home from work and my young bride informed me that she had talked to a minister at Lowe Farm, a town straight south of us, and we had an invitation to go and visit him and his wife.

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