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Police, cybersecurity experts warn of potential scams for wildfire relief


Times of crisis like the Nova Scotia wildfires can often bring out the best in people, but experts warn they can also be a breeding ground for the total opposite.

"This is something that we call 'sharking”, said David Shipley, a cybersecurity expert based in New Brunswick. “It refers to when there is blood in the water, criminals circle around."

Shipley says when it comes to online fundraisers and donations, beware of scams.

"It's been seen with earthquakes, with natural disasters, COVID - you name it”, Shipley said. “Criminals are heartless, and they will use every opportunity to try to commit fraud."

"I'm sure it's coming”, said Cpl. Guillaume Tremblay of the Nova Scotia RCMP. “Any time we have a significant incident - we've seen it with the hurricanes- there was a lot of scams afterwards whether it was via phone calls, text messaging, emails."

Tremblay sounded the alarm about potential scams Wednesday, during a live broadcast on CTV Atlantic’s “CTV News at 5."         

He said though anyone convicted of fraud could face jail time, it doesn't stop scammers from scamming.          

"Once you hit 'send' on that e-transfer or once you write that cheque, and that money is out of your bank account, it's very difficult for officers to locate and track down that money,” Tremblay said.

Shipley says while the eagerness to help is understandable, it's best to make sure you're contributing to an organization that has a good track record.

"The United Way here in Halifax obviously is doing some great work on this area, the Canadian Red Cross”, he said. "It's always good to be skeptical. Always have your April Fool's Day hat on."

"We're looking into the future as well”, Tremblay added. “So there could be construction scams as the communities rebuild. So never, never pay upfront."

Officials advise that if you suspect a scam, to report it to local police.           

"If we can help them by going to those trusted services, and known entities, that's how we can defeat the sharks”, Shipley said. Top Stories

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