Canadian businesses and consumers stand to benefit from a new Web site that apprises them of the latest frauds and scams in their area.
Launched this week, Fraudcast.ca is billed as “Canada’s first Web-based TV show dedicated to fighting fraud.”
The site achieves its goal by arming Canadians with their most potent weapon against fraud: timely information and advice.
This is presented via fraudcasts – video threat reports that keep people up-to-date on scams they’re likely to encounter, and offer prevention tips.
A highlight of the site is a video report on the top 10 fraud stories from Canada and around the world.
“Education is the best way to protect Canadians against fraud,” said Dion Yungblut, senior director of operations at Capital One Canada, a MasterCard provider and division of Capital One Bank in Toronto.
He said scam artists are constantly looking for new ways to cheat people, so consumers need to exercise vigilance at all times. “That’s definitely an ongoing challenge, especially as technology changes.”
Fraudcast.ca consciously adopts a “location-based” approach to imparting information on fraud.
On a map of Canada, viewers click on an area nearest them to bring up a video report on scams specific to that geography.
“Scams have a tendency to come and go, and move across geographical boundaries,” noted Craig Hannaford, retired RCMP fraud investigator and a co-founder Fraud Squad TV.
Fraud Squad TV is a television program that educates Canadians on the various kinds of fraud, how to recognize a scam, and ways to avoid becoming a victim.
It was the program’s co-founders who thought up the idea of Fraudcast.ca.
With Fraud Squad TV entering its second season, the founders wanted to develop a Web presence to broaden the show’s reach, and add an interactive, real-time element to programs.
The result is Fraudcast.ca.
While Better Business Bureau provides local content, the idea is also to fold in tips and reports from local police forces.
The site also includes a fraud “library” with sections on a wide range of scams in alphabetical order: Adoption fraud, Advance Fee fraud, Advertising Material fraud, Bait & Switch fraud, Bank Inspector fraud et al.
Clicking on a fraud type will bring up an informational video, as well as a panel at the bottom of the page with three sections: Information, Fraud Prevention Tips and Your Stories and Questions. The last section allows readers/viewers to post their own experiences about that fraud to the site or ask a question.
It’s all about stopping fraud in its tracks, Hannaford said.
That’s a task law enforcement bodies can’t accomplish on their own.
The RCMP is unable to prevent fraud before it happens, Hannaford noted. And while local police do a great job investigating cases and making arrests, they’re often unable to help businesses and consumers regain lost funds.
“We see savings lost and marriages break, and by the time an arrest is made, the money is long gone.”
The most effective antidote to fraud, said the retired RCMP investigator, is creating a fraud-prevention network and getting out relevant, timely information.
One Canadian entrepreneur whose story could have turned out very differently were such information available to him is Alan Davison, owner of HUB Computer Solutions’ in Winnipeg.
Davison’s firm’s telecom system was hacked into in December by criminals who cracked the four digit voicemail password.
The crooks then used the hijacked phone line to make hundreds of phone calls to Bulgaria, saddling Davison with a phone bill of approximately $52,000.
His insurance doesn’t cover the attack and his telecom provider – Manitoba Telecom Services – says he’s responsible for the security of his own appliances.
“If we were made aware of the issue, we would’ve taken preventive measures and avoided the whole thing.”
Davison said if businesses are kept informed of local fraud activity, they stand some chance of preventing it.
Fraud against small business is a growing problem in Canada.
Only 25 per cent of store managers think their business is vulnerable to a data breach and only 31 per cent provide training to prevent an attack.
Davison believes businesses will definitely gain from greater awareness of current threats. But he says reports should include data from the police, who usually know more about recent threats than the Better Business Bureau.
“The bottom line is if I were made aware of the threat, I would’ve prevented the whole thing.”
The Better Business Bureau-Fraud Squad TV partnership will have a positive impact on education imparted via Fraudcast.ca, according Doug Simpson, president and CEO of the Bureau’s Canadian Council.
But he agrees with Davison that information from the police is vital. He says Fraudcast.ca involves a broad range of groups, including police officers and local organizations.
“There are no fences around this site. We want input from as many people as possible.”
In addition to weekly updates, the site will include longer pieces from experts, panel discussions by police officers or professors and Q&As, which he hopes will prompt blogs and comments by the public.
“The goal is to become much more interactive than anything else out there. The first step is creation of local videos, which will hopefully prompt more users to get involved.”
With files from Joaquim P. Menezes