For most people, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year, but for an unsuspecting few, the holidays can be turned upside down by opportunistic criminals.
While email and phone have often been the prefered medium of scam artists, a letter circulating in Brandon has recently been brought to the attention of the Brandon Sun.
The letter, from attorney Rafael Berdaguer Barbadillo with the Rafael Berdaguer Abogados firm in Spain, is requesting that the recipient, a Brandon woman in poor health, step forward as a distant relative of another man with the same last name who recently died in Spain in order to collect a large quantity of money.
Barbadillo urges the recipient of the letter to come forward to claim the US$9.4 million before "it is seized or confiscated by the authorities" and offers the recipient a split "50/50 for each of us as our benefits."
Barbadillo even goes as far to mention that this isn’t the way he typically does business.
"Prior to my explaining further, I must first make an apology for this unsolicited mail to you. I am conscious that this is certainly not a predictable way of approach to foster a relationship of trust but because of the urgency surrounding this claim I decided to reach you via this media to join me to put claim on this fund," he writes.
Anyone who gets a letter from an unknown person should also remember the golden rule: "If it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is," RCMP spokesperson Line Karpish said.
The letter, which is printed with the firm’s letterhead, even goes into great detail about how the wealthy relative died during a storm while in Spain and how the "efforts of search for a direct family member, came to no avail."
The alleged Barbadillo appears to have covered his bases as well, in an attempt to look more legitimate, the fraudster used the real name of a lawyer and law firm in Spain. However, the email address that the scam artist would like the woman to respond to is slightly different than the one listed by the law firm online. The phone number is also changed.
The Brandon Sun tried to contact the author of the letter, but received no response. Also important to note is that while trying to connect with the author via email that the email software application recognized the email address as one that has been connected to "spam mail."
Karpish said it is important to remain vigilant during the holiday season, as criminals try to prey on people during a time of year when personal information may be easier to gain access to due to increase in transactions.
"Scammers use this time of year to try to gain access to personal information, account data, credit card information with the goal of making a buck off of all us who work hard for our money," Karpish said.
Karpish said the RCMP was contacted regarding a fraudulent claim from someone posing as Canada Post.
After contacting the postal service, a representative told her that they never sent the letter and that they always address letters directly to the person they are sending them to and would never ask for personal information in a letter.
"It shows you that nobody is exempt," Karpish said. "Be very leery about any kind of request for information or money that comes your way. There is no reason to share your personal information."
Karpish said most institutions won’t solicit information via email.
"Make sure you are contacting the bank or person directly," Karpish said. "Stand in the institution with someone face-to-face."