The New Brunswick government is warning consumers and businesses to be wary if organizations or persons they do not know ask to invest with them or to provide personal information. The Financial and Consumer Services Commission has issued an alert following a series of incidents reported recently throughout the province. 

Commission CEO Rick Hancox says a pyramid network described as a ‘pay it forward cloud’ targeting women mainly in northern New Brunswick, a telephone scam targeting Syrian newcomers in Saint John and a phishing scam targeting small business owners in western New Brunswick have all come to their attention in recent weeks,

Hancox says the scheme prevalent in northern New Brunswick leads participants to believe a gifting club will generate a return of up to 800 per cent and help other women. Potential members have been asked to make an investment ranging from $1,250 for a return of $10,000, to $625 for a return of $5,000, with the requirement that each member recruit two other people.

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Pyramid-based scams are designed to fail before all members can recoup their investment, since the number of recruits must constantly increase to prevent the collapse of the scheme.

In Saint John, Hancox says a family of Syrian refugees was contacted by someone seeking money and banking information in exchange for English lessons. The family lost about $400 after falling prey to this telephone scam. The family’s interpreter called the bank and the Saint John police, but the money had already been taken from their account.

In western New Brunswick, a photography business was contacted by a woman claiming to be hearing impaired so she could only communicate via text. She wanted to buy services for a wedding and insisted the business charge an additional amount to a credit card for a wedding planner who, according to her, was unable to accept the credit card directly.

Another small business was asked to provide interior design services worth almost $4,000, with a down payment of $1,000, to be sent to a second person who would provide a key to enter the house needing the design work, after which the balance would be paid. The calls came from Baltimore, Maryland, as well as from Texas.

“The RCMP was made aware of the shady telephone calls to businesses in western New Brunswick, but no formal complaints were made, and, fortunately no one was defrauded,” said Cpl. Chantal Roger, with New Brunswick’s RCMP Financial Crime Unit. “Fraudsters continue to become more sophisticated. We have been made aware of several businesses in New Brunswick being targeted specifically. The fraudster is usually contacting them from outside of Canada and wants to pay up front through a credit card for the company’s services but then looks for bank account information to complete the transaction. These are all warning signs.”

March is Fraud Prevention Month and the Financial and Consumer Services Commission is making information resources available to the public.

Information in this article provided by the Government of New Brunswick