March is national Fraud Prevention Month in Canada and last year, scammers bilked Canadians out of more than $90 million*. From employment scams to catphishers to identity thieves, Canadians lost more money to scammers in 2016 than the previous two years. In fact, 50 per cent more than in 2015.
But, there is some good news. The scam that took the top spot in 2015 (the Canada Revenue Agency scam) has been in decline. A call centre in India was raided and the calls have since dropped off dramatically. While the numbers for that scam have decreased, it has not gone away entirely.
“The positive take away right now, is that there appears to be more reporting going on which would explain some of the increase in money lost,” says Mary, O’Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. “However, we can only report what we know, and we are strongly encouraging people who have fallen victim to come forward and share their stories. Together, with our community and our partners, we can provide consumers with the necessary tools to fight fraud.”
BBB’s Top 10 Scams of 2016
Employment Scams ($5.3 million lost):
The most reported scam to BBB Scam Tracker. You likely didn’t apply, much less get an interview for a job you can do from home. It’s just a cheque cashing scheme that is simply too good to be true. Do your research on any company before accepting a position. If you are asked to deposit a cheque and send money back, it’s not a real job.
Online Dating Scams ($17 million lost):
Online dating is big business to scammers. Canadians give away a lot of money as they give away their hearts to Catphishers. Catphishing is when a fraudster fakes an identity and tricks someone via dating sites into a phony emotional or romantic relationship for financial gain. Do not wire money to someone you’ve never met. If they are out of the country or can never meet in person, walk away.
Identity Fraud ($11 million lost):
Scammers steal your identity to secure credit cards, bank loans, and even rent property in your name. Even children are susceptible to identity fraud. Never carry your SIN with you. Change your online passwords regularly.
Advance Fee Loans ($1.1 million lost):
Paying an up-front fee to get a loan is illegal in Canada and the U.S. These scammers prey on those who don’t qualify for loans through reputable lenders. You are not required to pay a fee to receive a loan. Seek alternative finance options.
Online Purchase Scams ($8.6 million lost):
Scammers have new online avenues to take your money and trust. Counterfeit merchandise, goods that never show up, fake websites, and free trial traps are everywhere. Shop on legitimate websites. Only use trustworthy third party payment portals such as PayPal.
Wire Fraud – Spearphishing ($13 million lost):
Spearphishing is a big problem for the business community. Millions are lost when scammers pose as company brass and demand money be wired to a fake company email. Create payment redundancies in your organization. Be vigilant on any incoming emails.
Binary Option Scams/Investment Scams ($7.5 million lost):
Big promises of low risk, high returns, and full refunds entices Canadians to take a chance. It’s really just an unregulated 50/50 bet and not investment at all. They delay any winnings…if you win at all. Understand high risk is involved, and seek professional investment advice.
Fake Lottery Winnings ($3 million lost):
If you didn’t enter…you didn’t win. Calls come in at all hours telling you you’ve won a big US lottery! You just need to pay a tax or insurance fee before you get your millions. It’s way too good to be true. You do not have to pay to receive lottery winnings. Contact the corporation directly to verify claims and details.
Canada Revenue Agency scam ($4.3 million lost):
Our number one scam in 2016. While this scam is still being reported, a crackdown on a call centre in India in 2016 has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of calls targeting Canadians. The CRA does not make threatening phone calls. The CRA does not request information on the phone or by email.
Fake Online Endorsements (Unknown amount lost):
Consumers are often enticed to purchase a product or service based on reviews by social media influencers. Unfortunately, theses reviews may not be genuine and the influencer may have been paid by a company to be used as a marketing tool. Take everything you read online with a grain of salt. Seek other review sources and BBB.org.
BBB would like to thank the following sponsors for helping make the National Top 10 Scams campaign possible:
Global Payments Canada
Consumer Debtor Protection Canada
The Competition Bureau
The Bank of Canada
Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre
BC Securities Commission
Vancouver Police Department
*This list is an amalgamation of information gathered from BBB’s Scam Tracker website, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and concerns brought forward by sponsors and community partners.