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Fraudulent auto loans by organized crime in B.C. on rise during pandemic

Last Updated Oct 7, 2020 at 6:08 pm PDT

FILE - This undated photo provided by BMW North America shows the BMW 7 Series automobile. (Chris Tedesco/BMW North America via AP)

Lenders who finance auto loans in B.C. and car dealerships have been increasingly targeted by criminals

Scotiabank reports two dozen such cases in B.C., most since mid-March

The fraud schemes during the pandemic often involve meetings other than in person

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Fraudulent auto loans by organized crime groups in B.C. have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Metro Vancouver CrimeStoppers.

Lenders who finance auto loans in B.C. and car dealerships have been increasingly targeted by criminals seeking and obtaining fraudulent car loans this year, with Scotiabank reporting two dozen such cases in B.C., most since mid-March, when the pandemic led to the shutdown of many businesses.

Losses to consumers and Scotiabank have reached $1.5 million to date, says a release from CrimeStoppers.

Other banks in the Lower Mainland, as well as Terrace and Kelowna, have been affected.

Report auto fraud

CrimeStoppers urges anyone with information about who’s involved in auto fraud, losses from which drive up consumer loan costs and can affect credit ratings, to report it.

“Maybe you know where the fraudster lives, or you’re connected somehow to the crime but want it all to end,” says Linda Annis, executive director of Metro Vancouver CrimeStoppers.

“All we want from you is your information. We don’t want to know who you are. You’ll never be called back by police, you’ll never have to go to court and you could be eligible for a cash reward.”

Sources of data breaches include theft, discarded or misplaced personal documents, database breaches, insider information, and phishing.

Protect yourself

Crimestoppers says consumers need to protect passwords, sensitive personal information, including bank statements, SIN number, and payment information.

It also recommends periodic credit checks and says credit card balances can identify potential breaches of personal credit information.

“If you do become a victim, remember to hang on to any documents, receipts, copies of emails and text messages that may help the investigation,” says CrimeStoppers.

“Consumers, stakeholders and lenders all have a role to play in order to protect the borrowing capacity of consumers,” adds Jeffrey Beede, with Scotiabank.

“Our bank and others are constantly working with retail partners and making our internal systems more rigorous to address risk areas related to verification of identification in retail loan applications. If consumers or stakeholders are aware of risks to their credit or account breaches, they should report concerns immediately to local police, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or Crime Stoppers to facilitate mitigation.”