SCAMMERS, hackers and thieves are among us. The question is, how do we protect ourselves from those who would take our money, our identity and our sense of safety? Education is the key. Learning how to recognize scams and report them to the proper authorities is the surest way to defeat this often faceless enemy.
Every year for the last 22 years BBB B.C. has put together a list of the top scams affecting British Columbians. They work alongside their community partners to develop a list identifying which scams are actively phishing for your identity and money. The benefit of these partnerships means the public has more opportunity to become educated than ever before when it comes to these scams. Despite that, losses are on the rise.
2013 saw Canadians lose roughly 53 million dollars to scammers. According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre that number hit 70 million in 2014. More websites means more opportunity for fraud. More catastrophe around the world means more charlatans are setting up shop to prey on your good and giving nature.
“In today’s world, there is even more need to keep educating the public and raise awareness of these issues,” said Danielle Primrose, President of BBB Serving Mainland BC, on Thursday. “Technology continues to help scammers cast a wider net for people to be susceptible, so we will keep rallying our partners and bringing the message to you.”
This year’s BBB Top 10 Scams live largely in the digital world. It is a space that is easier for hackers and fraudsters to set up shop, and they are getting very good at deception. It is easy for these crooks to replicate trusted brands and hit as many potential victims as possible all at once. From developing a sense of trust to steal your money to buoy up a Ponzi scheme, to breaking through IT security and firewalls to exploit the personal data of millions of people, these scammers stop at nothing to make your life miserable.
BBB Top 10 Scams:
- Top Auto Scam – Automotive Online Pricing
Doing your research on a vehicle before buying is always important. These scammers cash in when a buyer does not do their homework and have the car inspected or check what the car is actually worth. A vehicle history report, a little online sleuthing or a purchase from a licensed dealer can be just the protection you need.
Tip: Find out the history of the vehicle before you buy.
- Top Emotional Scam – Disaster Charity Scam
A disaster strikes a far off country, or tragedy strikes closer to home. Scammers know we open our wallets in times of need and they have no apathy when it comes to taking your money posing as a fake charity instead. Fraudulent websites pop up when bad things happen. Do not be taken in by slick websites that look like a real charity.
Tip: Donate to organizations you have given to in the past.
- Top Identity Theft – Remote Computer Repair
The phone rings, the person on the other end claims to be from software giant Microsoft. They insist your computer is infected with a virus and needs to be fixed. At best they are trying to sell you software that you likely do not need. At worst they are trying to get you to open your computer up to malware in order to steal your identity.
Tip: Do not give anyone remote access to your computer unless you initiated contact.
- Top Social Media Scam – Fake Friend Request
A friend who is already a Facebook friend wants to be friends…again. Or perhaps the request is from someone you do not know and is not connected to any of your legitimate friends. These scammers want the personal information stored in your profile and often send links to open your computer to malware.
Tip: If you question the validity of the request, just turn it down.
- Top Romance Scam – Catphishing
As online dating becomes more popular, so do the scams involving them. Catphishers are after your personal information and your money. Learn to spot a catphisher if you are in the online dating world. They will offer emails and phone numbers right away and the relationship will feel like it is moving too fast.
Tip: Meet the person face to face before giving any personal information out.
- Top Utilities Scam – Fake Billing
This scam has hit every province in the country. The scammer calls up a business claiming to be from the local hydro service provider. They threaten to cut off power unless an overdue bill is paid within a specified time frame. The odd thing is, they want the bill paid buy Visa Gift Card. Big red flag.
Tip: Understand that hydro companies do not do business in this way.
- Top Finance Scam – Online Affinity Fraud
The online world offers investment fraudsters a whole new audience to unleash their scams. They join forums, chat rooms or social networking sites to gain the trust of a group. They leverage these contacts to meet face to face which helps them sell their Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme is a ploy to get people to invest in a ‘cannot lose’ business. They use that money to pay off early investors and eventually the whole thing collapses.
Tip: Do not fall for investments that offer no risk or guarantee returns.
- Top Sales Scam – Redirected Robocalls
You get a call and a lovely automated voice informs you that you have won $1000 towards your next flight. Often carriers like WestJet are mentioned in the ruse. You are prompted to press a number to go to the next step and find yourself talking to a salesperson pushing cheap Mexican vacation packages.
Tip: Do not follow through with robocall prompts.
- Top Big Data Scam – Big Box Breach
These scams have been all over the news and affect a lot of people at once. Big box stores such as Target and Home Depot have fallen victim to data breach. That means credit and debit card information for millions of consumers land in the hands of computer hackers.
Tip: Change your passwords frequently.
- Top Ad Scam – Fake Online Reviews
Almost all of us seek online reviews before spending our cash or making that reservation. However, a Harvard study found 20% of those reviews are fake. Most review sites do not vet submissions so you have to train yourself on how to spot them. Fake reviews, often called ‘astroturfing,’ contain over-the-top language such as “Can’t be missed!” or “Life changing!”
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