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Mail-forwarding scam highlights fraud as a 'growth industry'

With complaints of mail-forwarding fraud seven times higher in 2016 than the previous year, MKD International Inc. managing director Jim Downs says it’s a sign that all kinds of fraud are on the rise and individuals and businesses have to be diligent.

“Fraud is a growth industry,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “There are so many different avenues for fraud, particularly now with the cyberworld. The bottom line is, the increase in this type of fraud isn’t surprising at all.”

Downs comments after CBC reports that statistics from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre show it received 479 complaints of mail-forwarding fraud in 2016 compared to 63 in 2015. And officials say those numbers are only a fraction of those who are actually targeted, says the article. 

"The scheme involves a fraudster impersonating someone and rerouting that person's mail through Canada Post, either to a residence or a business address," says the CBC. Often, the victim doesn’t realize they have been targeted, it says.

"If you ... have received a mail-forwarding notification in the mail, or either you've seen that your mail has stopped, they [fraudsters] definitely have your information, and it's probably a lot worse than what you think," says Lisanne Roy Beauchamp, acting team leader for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, in the CBC story.

The centre is a federal agency that collects information about criminal intelligence on identity theft and other types of fraud.

Address changes typically happen through Canada Post's online system, with fraudsters typically rerouting mail to a location that is either abandoned, vacant or up for sale, says the article. 

And the information a fraudster needs to make a mail-forwarding request — name, phone number and address — is easily found online, Canad Post's Roy Beauchamp tells the CBC.

The organization is working to prevent this type of fraud. Roy Beauchamp says mail-forwarding requests are not automatically approved and Canada Post follows up on applications found to be suspicious; it also checks credit reports to verify addresses and it does call phone numbers that are provided, says the CBC. 

In an email to the public broadcaster, Canada Post says it "follows a multi-pronged identity verification process in order to prevent fraud and ensure that individuals purchasing the service have the authority to do so."

If you receive a notice saying you made a change of address that you didn’t request, it’s wise to contact Canada Post right away, the article says.

Downs says the fact is, it’s all too easy for fraudsters to target people and to obtain their personal information.

“The basics of this particular fraud come down to identity theft, which is on the rise,” he says. 

Downs, a retired Toronto police detective, says one of the issues is that fraudsters are always coming up with new and creative ways to scam people and it is difficult for the authorities to track them and bring them to justice in the criminal justice system.

Sometimes, the fraudsters are located in other countries and that brings a whole host of investigative and prosecution challenges, he notes. 

“As a result, there is very little deterrence,” he says. 

Downs and his investigative firm are often hired to probe frauds so the victims can obtain some evidence to put before a judge on a civil matter instead of relying on the criminal courts to prosecute. 

He says individuals and businesses have to constantly watch their mail to make sure they receive everything as they expected, as well as keep a close eye on their credit card and bank statements. 

“You have to be careful,” Downs says. 

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