Goldhawk Fights Back: Generous, Comfortable Canadians Get Targeted

This is a weekly column by Dale Goldhawk, Canada’s best-known consumer advocate. A journalist, author and broadcaster, Dale hosts Goldhawk Fights Back For You, on AM 740 or at AM740 ZoomerRadio, Monday through Friday from 11 am to 1 pm, in the eastern time zone. Visit his website at

Remember the bad old days? Just 15 or 20 years ago? Bad guys in sneaky shoes were heavy into low tech commercial crime. It was easy. It was profitable.

First, there was dumpster diving. The crooks raided dumpsters behind car rental outlets, looking for paper receipts that might carry your credit card number. And if the thieves were lucky, they might get your home address and driver’s licence number. These were the early days of identity theft, before we even called it identity theft.

Other criminals who wanted to commit financial assault would steal our mail. Go to the post office and put in a Change of Address form. Our mail would get diverted. That new credit card that was applied for by the bad guy that we knew nothing about was charged up to the max and then the mysterious charger disappeared, leaving us to find out about it only after a bill collector tracked us down.

There is an e-mail equivalent to dumpster diving or postal purloining.

A hacker gains access to your e-mail account and quickly changes the password, shutting you out and at the same time gaining access to, among other things, your telephone directory. The hacker then sends out a crooked pitch to your e-mail contacts.

Here’s one that Toronto Police have been talking about. The con is an urgent cry for help from you to all your friends. It says you have lost all your money, ID and credit cards and you are stranded in, for example, the U.K. Please send some money so you can get home.

Police in Toronto say the scam has worked. Hackers in Toronto were able to get into e-mails in well-heeled neighbourhoods and appeal to generous people who might well have friends travelling in a faraway land where they could have run into trouble.

And the amounts of money requested are modest — amounts that would match what it would cost to fly home. Add to that the additional credibility of a legitimate e-mail address.

“Yup, that’s Bob’s e-mail address so Bob must be in trouble,” you might rightly assume.

Police in Toronto were tipped off to the fraud when one of the fraud investigators got the pitch in a friend’s e-mail. The e-mail said the friend was in Europe; the cop knew his friend was right here in Canada.

Remember to apply a little common sense to a strange situation. Bob is stranded in the U.K. And he needs to e-mail me for help. His own credit card company could not help him? He couldn’t call his bank in Canada? He couldn’t call me collect to ask for help?

Maybe the best test for fraud in a case like this would be to tell Bob to call you collect. Right away. And you will do what you can. A phony Bob would just give up and hunt for another victim.

Dale GoldhawkGemini award nominee, journalist and broadcaster, Dale Goldhawk has earned Canada’s trust by his four decades of work exposing fraud and greed in the marketplace. To read more of his articles, go to (now part of the ZoomerMedia family of websites).

Don’t miss Goldhawk Fights Back , on the New AM740 Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.