RCMP warn against fraud, theft during holidays 

Christmas is the time for giving. For some people, it is also the time for taking.

With hundreds of visitors pouring into Whistler throughout the next two weeks, a Whistler RCMP officer is asking people to keep an eye on their valuables.

“We would like to remind residents and guests to ensure they safeguard their belongings, particularly credit cards,” said Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair.

“If somebody steals your credit card, obviously they can use it to make purchases fraudulently, and that can be a real headache for somebody.

“We also like to tell people not to leave valuables in their vehicles, and if they are going to be leaving things in their hotel rooms, to make sure it is secured in a hotel safe, if available.”

LeClair said RCMP officers will be on patrol in the village throughout the holiday period, with an increased presence during New Year’s Eve.

Meanwhile, the staff sergeant said crime in general has been down in Whistler over the past two months, following the arrest of Josh Lundstrom on Oct. 9.

Lundstrom, 29, was arrested in connection with 41 offenses including multiple counts of possession of stole property, fraud, theft, and possession and use of stolen credit cards. In many cases, the credit cards were stolen from vehicles and used to obtain clothing and liquor.

He pled guilty on Nov. 13 and was sentenced to over two years in jail.

“He obviously was responsible for a lot of crime in our city,” LeClair said.

Privacy commissioners for the federal and provincial governments of Alberta and B.C. are also warning consumers about giving out personal information during the holiday season.

“During many retail transactions, consumers often hand over a lot more than just money — many shoppers share personal information such as their name, phone number or driver’s licence number,” said Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, in a statement.

“We want people to know that there are risks to sharing this type of information and that in most cases they have the right to say ‘no.’”


Top 10 scams

Another group in B.C. is also warning against fraud this holiday season.

The Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C. recently put together a list of the top 10 scams to look out for.

Top of the list was economic downturn ploys, and the group said people’s increased vulnerability during the credit crunch is an easy hook for scam artists.

The biggest scam to watch out for is small business cash advances that offer thousands of dollars for business ventures regardless of your credit rating. Often these loan-type opportunities have up-front fees and excessive interest charges associated with them.

The lender may also try to get your personal information for identity theft, members of the bureau state.

Another scam to watch out for is home repair rip-offs. Fly-by-night operators may show up in the spring and offer to do work, like landscaping and roofing, for cheap. Often, they are unqualified though, and any work they do may have to be redone later on.

Also, things that may seem “green” might actually be normal.

A study by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing recently found 99 per cent of products checked on supermarket shelves were examples of greenwashing — making false or misleading green marketing statements like “eco-friendly,” “all natural” or “environmentally safe”.

Be aware of spoofing attacks, where you receive an e-mail or visit a website that looks like it is from an organization you know, but is actually not.

These types of attacks have become more common recently, with con artists even using organizations like the Canada Revenue Agency to trick consumers into sharing their information. Websites often get you to fill in personal information or download malicious software that puts both your identity and money at risk.

Also be careful if you are selling something through classified ads or online bulletin boards like Craigslist. Scammers may write a cheque for the product that is more than the negotiated price.

The original cheque is usually stolen or fake, warns the bureau. By the time the victim has cashed and returned the excess funds, the scammer has disappeared with the money and the product.

Other things to watch out for: Bogus online adds, cure-all health products, lucrative-sounding business opportunities, guaranteed vehicle brokers or strange prize offerings like winning an international lottery.


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