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Ontario woman issues warning about scam involving fake Service Canada employee that cost her $50K

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An Ontario woman is warning others after a fraudster impersonating a Service Canada employee convinced her to empty out $50,000 from her bank account.

Anne Galt of Renfrew, Ont. told CTV News Toronto Thursday that she got a strange phone call in August from someone claiming to be with Service Canada.

“The man on the line said my social insurance number had been stolen and someone was doing illegal activities with it,” Galt said.

Your social insurance number (SIN) is a government-issued identifier needed to gain employment and access government programs. It should be kept highly confidential and if scammers get ahold of it, they can steal your identity and try to get into your bank accounts.

Earlier this year, Galt had her personal information – including her SIN – breached, so she says that when someone called her last month, saying they were from Service Canada and that her SIN had been stolen, she believed them.

“That’s what was part of what made this whole thing so believable," Galt said.

Galt said she was advised by the caller to speak with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and that during those conversations, her call display showed an OPP phone number, although now she believes the number was spoofed to make it appear it was the police when it wasn’t, she says.

Over the next few weeks, Galt thought she was helping the OPP in an investigation into her stolen PIN, following instructions to drain her bank account and send the money using a Bitcoin machine to accounts that she was told would be safe.

In time, Galt said she realized it was a scam, but not before sending the scammers more than $50,000.

“In total, I withdrew a little over $50,000. That was my safety net and now it's gone,” she said.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) issued a warning after fraudsters sent emails claiming people’s SINs would be terminated in 24 hours.

“If you call the number they ask for your SIN and threaten that if you don’t send funds immediately, you’ll be arrested,” the centre warned.

Jeff Horncastle with CAFC said that if you get a strange call that applies pressure and tries to make you act in a hurry, you should step back from the situation to make sure you’re not being scammed.

“Whether you’re getting a phone call, email, or text message, if you take a little time to do your due diligence, and look into it a little bit you can protect yourself from being a victim,” Horncastle said.

Service Canada advises to never give out your SIN on the phone or in emails. Don’t use your SIN as identification and don’t carry your SIN with you, either. Memorize your SIN and only give it out if the law requires it.

Galt said she is embarrassed about what happened but wanted to share her story to warn others.

"I’m heartsick about it but the most important thing is that other people don't fall for this type of thing.” 

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