New Brunswick — According to Financial and Consumer Services Commission CEO Rick Hanson, New Brunswickers lost over $1 million in 2018 to scam artists. We spoke with him over the phone to gain insight into why New Brunswickers are falling prey to these crooks more than anyone else in the country.
“We believe these fraudsters are finding success in New Brunswick because the majority of the population lives in poverty, so they’re desperate to believe in every opportunity or offer,” Hanson said. “These professional thieves know an easy target when they see one.”
About a third of the money lost went to catfish, people who pose as a potential love interest to gain financial support from the victim. Of the 18 people who fell for this particular type of scam in New Brunswick in 2018, 17 are from Victoria or Carleton County.
We interviewed Earl Smith, of Bath, to learn how a 58-year-old man posing as a barely legal model earned his trust and half of his unemployment benefits.
“I decided to try my luck dating online since I’ve dated everyone around here that isn’t closer in relation than a second cousin,” Smith stated. “The girl I met didn’t even own a single plaid shirt! She was a proper lady. Or I thought she was until she accidentally started her webcam while we were messaging on Facebook one day.
“Turns out she was some American feller trying to scam money out of me to get to Maine and sneak across the border. I figured I already invested all that money, so now I’ve got him living in my shed and he shovels the dooryard.”
Jane Marshall of Plaster Rock fell for a scam promising employment that would not interfere with her welfare benefits or CCB. The company promised to start her at a salary of $5,000 per week.
“It seemed like the perfect opportunity,” she said. “The HR specialist that emailed me told me the company’s base is in Europe and they do not report earnings to the CRA. I already have six kids and cannot handle having any more or I would.”
Another common scam is from people posing as a federal agency, particularly the Canada Revenue Agency. The CRA would like to remind New Brunswickers for the hundredth time that they will not contact you via email and threaten to arrest you.
“We do not play around when you owe us money,” said CRA spokeswoman Amy Tillerman. “If you do not have a paycheck to take we will send the RCMP to repossess everything from your vehicle to your firstborn child.”
Hanson said he’s tried to caution people in New Brunswick to think critically about opportunities that seem “too good to be true,” but no warnings have worked.
“These are people who spend half their day online getting upset about satirical news stories and the other half wondering why no one will hire them. I don’t see things getting any better.”