March is Fraud Prevention Month. RCMP Corporal Terry Sundell makes his way around the province's various RCMP detachments giving presentations of how to prevent fraud. Multiplied millions of dollars are lost to fraudsters as they prey on the unwary who could be educated to avoid such tragedies. Sundell shares some examples. 

"In this role, we often get requests from detachments on fraud that were initiated through online contact, contact through various social media sites, text messages, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and the like," says Sundell. "A lot of them are just unsolicited messages that people start to engage with. And whether it be immediate, or whether it be after some time, that contact turns into some form of relationship where the person begins to trust the unknown number that was communicating with them. That can turn into anything from investment scams to scams that are related to catfishing, or romance scams."

Sundell explains that these two kinds of scams have seen people from Manitoba lose significant dollars. 

"I know, even myself, I get random phone calls and messages just from various people that are requesting anything. The best way to put it is, you get unsolicited text messages and phone calls offering new cell phone plan services, or some other kind of a service like that constantly. The best advice I have for anyone that's receiving things is just to block the number and hang up."

He notes, that no matter how convincing someone might be on the phone, if you didn't initiate the contact with someone and it's coming from e-mail, text or phone call, there is a very high likelihood that it is not a legitimate office. 

"Just looking at what information we have, and specifically in the Portage area, we have had several reports in recent times with frauds that are referred to as the 'Emergency Scam,' or 'Grandparent Scams'. I will say that victims are not always older, and anybody can become a victim to these types of scams. These scams would involve somebody calling and targeting someone to say that they're a family member in distress. Or they might even claim that they're a police or justice official, claiming that a loved one or a grandchild is in trouble and needs money immediately."

Portage la Prairie has had many reports in recent months of this type of fraud. In 2024, people have lost significant amounts of money as a result of these specific ones, and they're getting much more sophisticated than they have in the past. 

"With very little requirement to be a sophisticated fraudster, a person could just look up general information on a person online based on what their social media profile might be. If their phone number is attached to them, they could initiate a phone call and pretend to be someone on their friends list or perhaps a family member. These calls get very convincing because in an emergency, we tend to act under stress. We tend to not hear as well, not think through things as well, and that's the motivation behind these fraudsters. They prey off of that stress. They give very little information out, but have the person think that there's a need for them to act quickly to help their loved ones either get bail, because they've been arrested, or to perhaps pay money for some other reason."

Sundell says if you've received a call like this, even if they've said, "Don't tell anyone," or have coached you not to tell anyone, you should at least tell a friend. 

"You can always call the RCMP or the police force in your area. Just by talking to just one other person who's not under that same amount of stress that you're under, it is very likely that they will point out that there's flaws in this story and encourage you to reach out to the person that is supposedly the subject of this emergency scam. Reach out to them directly by their own cell phone number or contact that you have, and try to find an alternative means to verify that this story is true." 

Stay posted for more stories this month on how to ensure you're not the victim of a fraudster.


Here are a couple of links that would be important for you to be aware of.

  • RCMP online reporting in Manitoba
  • Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) (for information on what to do if you’re a victim, how to best protect yourself, general awareness of recent scams, and for online reporting of scams)
  • Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (this is a great resource for individuals, businesses, and government institutions on how to best protect your information, implement best practices, and complete surveys that can help better assess your risk and vulnerabilities online)
  • cybertip!ca (Canada’s national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children) (Sextortion and Online Sexual Violence can affect people of all ages. This website has valuable information and resources to help educate people and assist those that have been victimized)