After being absent for at least three years, a once-popular scam has made it back on a notorious list.
“Travel, vacation and timeshare scams are now the riskiest scams in Canada,” the BBB’s vice-president of marketing and communications Camie Leard said.
The private, nonprofit organization said people were at risk of losing up to $5,000 to scammers — about 16 times higher than the overall median dollar loss in 2019.
The BBB said several consumers reported bogus businesses deceiving people into paying exorbitant closing fees on fraudulent timeshare resales, while others reported unrealistically cheap deals.
The BBB advised travellers should only use reputable and dependable travel agencies and that timeshare sellers should thoroughly research potential brokers.
Pridis, Ala., resident Candice Hunter said she did that and still got scammed.
Hunter said she was called — out of the blue — by a company offering to buy her timeshare in Cabo, Mexico. After researching the company thoroughly, she agreed to a purchase price. She said she was then contacted by a lawyer, who told her to contact the timeshare operator. She was provided a number and was told she would have to pay a percentage of the sale price.
“I thought I was calling my timeshare company to give them the 10 per cent,” Hunter added. “They did a quick switch on me.”
Instead of calling her timeshare company, Hunter said she was unknowingly connected to another scammer. She regrets not looking up the number independently and added it was a costly mistake.
“$11,000 Canadian,” she said. “I was a single mom for 17 years and I had to put my kids through school. And I saved that money and that’s hard.”
Leard said scammers are always on the lookout for certain people to victimize.
“The main message with scammers is they’re always looking at human foibles,” she said. “They’re always looking for a way in.”
“I think the story is when times are tough people are more vulnerable to scams. They’re looking for often quick fixes quick cash and income.”
Calgary police Sgt. Matt Frederickson agreed, adding once that money is gone — victims won’t see it again.
“For the most part the money is gone,” he said. “We’re not able to get the money back on most cases, unfortunately, because the fraudsters are able to distribute it.”
Frederickson said there were almost 5,000 scams reported to Calgary police last year, resulting in about $50 million in losses.
He also suggested people research any company thoroughly, and not jump at an offer without first thinking it over and talking it over with others.
Other scams on the BBB top 10 list
Other scams joined the travel, vacation and timeshare scam on the BBB’s list, including:
- Advanced fee loan scam
- Romance scam
- Cryptocurrency scam
- Employment scam
- Online purchase scam
- Home improvement scam
- Tech support scam
- Credit card scam
The BBB added while Canadians still lost money to tax scams, the number of reports and losses in 2019 had decreased.
Who is at risk?
The BBB said in 2019, women were slightly more likely to lose money to scammers, but men lost significantly more money — $600 versus $200. When it comes to age, younger individuals were more likely to lose money to scammers than older people, but people 65+ reported higher monetary losses.
This year’s report is based on data supplied by consumers to BBB Scam Tracker and used the BBB Risk Index, a unique algorithm that calculates exposure, susceptibility and monetary loss.