CALGARY – Some fraud prevention tips might seem like common sense: Don’t give out your social insurance number or write it on cheques, check your debit and credit card statements closely, and don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight or on weekends. But government and business leaders are highlighting popular scams consumers should watch out for as they launch Fraud Prevention Month.
“Canadians are shopping and banking online more than ever, but these activities do pose risks,” said Steven Blaney, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in a statement.
The president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving southern Alberta and east Kootenay said people might not think they’re a likely target if they’re familiar with certain scams, but technology has made it easier to create authentic-looking logos, business names and URLs.
“It can be easy to miss the warning signs,” said Sandra Crozier-McKee in a statement. “Scammers are also able to reach consumers directly through mobile devices which can make it easier to fall victim to their tricks.”
Calgary police said fraud complaints have increased significantly over the past 3 years: In 2012, there were 2,881 complaints and in 2014, they reached 3,052. Equifax Canada suggests fraud accounts for 54 per cent of all cybercrimes reported to police, citing Statistics Canada data. Fraud-related crime costs Canada between $15-billion and $30-billion annually, said the credit check company in a release.
The BBB says these are believed to be the most pervasive scams over the last year:
10. Sweepstakes scam – This one has been around for years: You get a message saying you’ve won a contest, lottery or sweepstakes event. Then you’re asked to pay fees or taxes in advance in order to claim your prize.
9. Click bait scam – Scammers use “click bait” such as news stories, celebrity photos, or fake news in order to get you to click on something that actually downloads malware that can harm your computer.
8. Robocall scam – This scam takes personal information like your credit card number, after promising to lower your credit card interest rates, but then charges fees to your card.
7. Government grant scam – Another one that requests fees so you can collect a government grant award for thousands of dollars. It may mention programs you’ve heard in the news.
6. Emergency or “grandparent” scam – Often preying on older people, a scammer poses as a relative in a call or email claiming to have been injured, robbed or arrested while traveling overseas. They ask their target to send money right away.
Watch below: Tony Tighe explains how the “grandparent” scam works and what you can do to avoid falling victim to it Nov. 21, 2014.
5. Medical alert scam: This involves a call or a visit from a “company” claiming a concerned family member has ordered you a medical alert device in case of an emergency. The scammer takes credit card or banking information, but never delivers the device.
4. Copycat website scam: Scammers send an email, text or social media post about a sale or exciting new product, linking to a website that looks like a legitimate retailer. After you order using your credit card, you get a cheap counterfeit product or nothing at all.
3. “Are you calling yourself?” scam: This trick puts your number in so it shows up on your own Caller ID, which causes many people to answer the phone or return the call.
2. Tech support scam: A call or pop-up ad on your computer claims to be from Microsoft / Norton / Apple about a problem on your computer and asking you to give “tech support” access to your hard drive in order to fix it. Instead, malware is installed on your computer and the scammers can steal your personal information.
1. Arrest scam: This trick starts with a call from someone claiming to be a police officer or government agent (often the CRA in Canada) who say they are coming to arrest you for overdue taxes or for skipping out on jury duty. They claim you can get out of it by sending them money via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
“Often what we find are the victims are losing a lot of money and to tell that to family and friends is a little bit embarrassing,” said Calgary Police Staff Sgt. Kristie Verheul. “One of the messages we want to get out there is: You’re a victim of crime like anybody else, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it, and you should come forward with that.”
Equifax suggests checking your credit report at least once a year and reporting discrepancies immediately. Using strong passwords, activating the firewall on your computer, and never giving out personal information unless you have initiated the contact are some of their top tips to avoid fraud.
Here are some other scams Global reporters Tony Tighe and Jayme Doll have covered in the past, including real estate, loan and Enmax scams:
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