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Don't Let These 6 Scams Fool You

by:
Sandra Sherk

We talk about a lot of different topics around the water cooler – the latest political news, sports, Hollywood gossip, and more. But we should also be talking about the stuff that has a direct impact on our lives (and wallets), like the scams that are happening every day and costing the average Canadian their hard-earned dollars. With a little more conversation around this topic, we could help others avoid being duped. Well, you know what they say: There’s no time like the present! And with Fraud Prevention Month wrapping up this week, we couldn’t agree more!

According to the Competition Bureau, from January 2014 to December 2016 it is estimated that Canadians lost over $290 million to fraudsters. It’s also estimated that only 5% of fraud actually gets reported to police, so it’s difficult for authorities to stay ahead of the game and warn us of potential scams. Why isn’t fraud reported? Some people are simply too embarrassed to admit that it happened to them. Others might brush it off, as they only lost a small amount of money, but any amount is too much if you ask me.

The truth is that fraud is a very real crime, so it’s important to report such crimes in order to help authorities gather evidence to bring down the fraudsters!

The following six scams have cost Canadians million of dollars. It is not a complete list – you can get more information from The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) and the Competition Bureau – but these are definitely the top scams to have on your radar.

CRA SCAM – CANADA REVENUE AGENCY

This was the #1 scam in 2016, and with tax season around the corner, this scam is already in full-swing for 2018. The way this scam works is simple: You receive a call from an individual claiming to represent the CRA and they tell you that you owe money in taxes and you must pay up NOW. The caller will threaten that if you don’t make an immediate payment an arrest warrant will be issued, or they’ll put a lien on your home. They might advise you to pay by Bitcoins or prepaid cards, like an iTunes card. They’ll also tell you not to speak to anyone about the matter. Now, why would the CRA tell you not to talk to anyone? Because the scammers don’t want you to find out it’s a scam, of course! Remember this: The CRA does not make threatening calls and they don’t request information over the phone or by email – they will send you a letter if you owe them money or if there are any other issues.

EMPLOYMENT SCAM

If you find a job opportunity online, do your research before accepting the position. If you’re asked to deposit a cheque and then send the money back to the employer, it isn’t a real job! Scammers use online classified websites like Kijiji, Craigslist, Monster, Indeed, and Workopolis to recruit potential victims. The most common scams include Mystery Shopper and HR/Administrative jobs.

ROMANCE SCAM

Romance scams are all too common. A fraudster will fake an identity and trick you via a dating site into a relationship. The online relationship might go on for months, when all of a sudden your “friend” runs into financial problems (usually outside of the country) and your new love interest will ask you to send money to help them out. Never, ever send money to anyone you haven’t met.

IDENTITY FRAUD

Scammers steal your information and identity to secure credit cards, loans, and more. To prevent this from happening to you, don’t carry your SIN card with you. Protect your PIN when you’re using it in public and never give out your PIN to anyone who calls or emails you, including your bank. The bank will never request your PIN, especially not over the phone. Also remember to shred any papers that contain your personal information, including your home address, before putting them in the garbage to prevent fraudsters from getting your personal information – especially credit card offers.

FREE TRIAL OFFERS

Make sure you read the fine print to see what you are agreeing to.  Many offers claim you’ll only have to pay the shipping and handling fees, but once the scammers have your credit card information they can bill you for other “purchases” too.   

FAKE LOTTERY WINS

We’ve all heard this one before: You won a free trip to Hawaii! All you have to do is pay a small processing fee, the taxes or an insurance fee. The bottom line is you don’t have to pay to receive lottery winnings, and if you didn’t enter then you can’t win. So beware of any “winnings” from lotteries or raffles you don’t recall entering.

 

The less a person knows the easier it is for fraudsters to take advantage of them, so the best way to prevent fraud is to stay informed and pass the information along to others. It’s especially important to inform those you know who may also be vulnerable to scammers, such as the elderly, people who live on their own or who don’t talk to too many people, or newcomers to Canada. An informed consumer is a smart consumer, and that’s exactly what the fraudsters DON’T want.

And don’t think it will never happen to you because you’re too smart. Remember, fraudsters are smart too, and they know who to target. Always be cautious about where you send personal details and money to, don’t be afraid to speak with family and friends, and ask questions about what you’ve been told.  

There’s no such thing as being too cautious when it comes to protecting your credit and personal information. If something doesn’t seem right, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and any other suspicious behaviour to the police.

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Topics: Consumer Protection

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