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Beware flood fraudsters

While Eastern Ontario residents battle some of the worst flooding experienced in recent memory, police are advising to be aware that in times of disaster, we see the best of people, and the worst of people.

As the flood waters begin to recede and the scope of home and property damages are revealed, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) remind home, business and property owners of fraud artists who use these opportunities to take advantage of an individual’s generosity or to prey on vulnerable flood victims.

In addition, property owners may be approached by fraudsters attempting to provide disaster relief or water filtration and testing services.

In April 2017, the Government of Ontario passed Bill 59, the ‘Putting Consumers First Act’ legislation to strengthen customer protection by introducing new rules for home door-to-door sales. For further information visit: http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/mcs/en/pages/default.aspx

The types of frauds to be aware of are:

Charity Fraud
If you’re thinking about giving to a charity to assist those affected by the recent floods, the OPP is asking the public to do your research to avoid fraudsters who try to take advantage of your generosity. Often, a scammer will exploit a recent natural disaster.

Warning signs
High pressure or threatening telemarketers who want you to contribute immediately.
Someone calls and thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
Copycat names. Names that might be misleading or deceiving.
To help prevent this type of fraud:
If an unfamiliar charity organization contacts you – by mail, phone, in person, or via email – be careful. Ask for detailed information about the charity, if it is a registered charity and obtain the full name, address, and telephone number.
Get the exact name of the organization and do some research by searching the name of the organization online.
Bogus charities often use names that are very close to the names of legitimate and respected charities.
All registered charities in Canada are overseen by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The public can search the CRA database which can be found at (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/lstngs/menu-eng.html).
Call the charity directly. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name.

Never give out your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call to the charity and the phone number came from a trusted source.

Contractor / Disaster Relief Fraud
To help prevent this type of fraud:
If you are approached by anyone claiming to be associated with your insurance company, a building inspector, or any other authority, ask to see his or her identification.
If having repairs made to your property, ask for and check their references. The company can also be checked out with the Better Business Bureau and Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Business Services (http://www.sse.gov.on.ca/mcs/en/pages/default.aspx).
Ask for a written estimate. Then get at least two more estimates from reputable businesses in your area.
Remember that good contractors ask a lot of questions so they can understand and plan out the project. Never rush or feel pressured into making a deal or signing a contract.
Have any proposed contract checked over by someone trustworthy before signing it.

Home Water Filtration / Treatment Systems scam:
There are legitimate businesses for water purification products and services, but you have to be careful of the ones that offer services that are too good to be true.

To help prevent this type of fraud:
When you open your door to a salesperson, remember:
Ask for photo ID and get the name of the person and the business.
Never share personal information (e.g., a utility bill).
If you ask a salesperson to leave, they must leave right away. If you feel unsafe, call local police. (OPP: 1-888-310-1122)
Look at the company name on the salesperson’s business card and promotional material and see if it matches the company name on the proposed contract.
Do not rely on a salesperson’s opinion that your water heater or filtration system is unsafe or should be replaced.
Local utility companies, municipalities, government agencies or regulatory organizations don’t send salespeople door-to-door.
You do not have to sign a contract at that time.

Additionally, you can contact Shire Hall for more information on disaster relief information.

If you or someone you know suspects they’ve been a victim of a fraud or online crime, contact your local police service, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, report it to the OPP online at http://www.opp.ca/index.php?id=132 or through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) at https://www.tipsubmit.com/start.htm

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