Home improvement scams top B.C. Better Business Bureau’s list amid COVID-19

BBB releases new list of top pandemic scams
The Better Business Bureau has released an updated list of the most successful scams during the pandemic. Our Consumer Matters reporter Anne Drewa has the details.

Home improvement scams top the list when it comes to fraudsters targeting Canadians during the COVID-19 crisis.

Canadians reported losses of more than $50,000 to this particular scam between March 1 and May 31, according to the Better Business Bureau on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Coronavirus-related scams have defrauded Canadians $1.2M: official

“Are they asking me to pay a lot of money up front? Are they saying they are going to do a transaction without a contract? Are they saying cash only as the method of payment? Those are some of the key signs you may be stumbling into a home improvement scam,” said Karla Laird, the organization’s mainland B.C. spokesperson.

The bureau recently reviewed several scams that have been the most prevalent during the coronavirus pandemic. Here is its list:

Story continues below advertisement

Puppy scams: Reported loss – $21,820

Unsuspecting victims come across fake ads on fake websites for puppies that don’t exist or belong to legitimate owners. Victims are often told to send money up front for things like climate-controlled crates, insurance, and even a non-existent COVID-19 vaccine. A puppy is never shipped.

If you are interested in adopting a pet, the organization recommends contacting your local shelter, checking out the pet in person first, and asking for references.

Coronavirus fraudster warning
Coronavirus fraudster warning

Advance fee loans: Reported loss – $20,000

Consumers should be cautious when they come across an email, phone call or online ad offering a great deal on a vehicle, mortgage, payday, or other type of loan.

The catch is some kind of up front charge, like a “processing fee.” Once you hand over the payment, the supposed “lender” disappears along with your money.

Story continues below advertisement

“When we saw that advance fee loans were one of the top scams during the pandemic, we were not surprised. So many people have had their lives disrupted and financial situation turned upside down,” said Laird.

READ MORE: 1,500 unauthorized COVID-19 test kits seized in B.C. after online sale effort

Consumers are reminded of the following to protect themselves:

  • Walk away from any loan offer with vague or unclear fees
  • Legitimate lenders never guarantee a loan in advance
  • Always do your research. Lenders and loan brokers must register where they do their business
  • Requiring advance fees for loans is illegal in Canada

Fake government grants: Reported loss – $12,550

This scam promises free money in the form of a government grant. If someone is actively soliciting you to give you money, the bureau said, it’s a red flag. Don’t pay any “processing fees” for a free government grant, because a real government agency will not ask for that.

Yvonne Ziomecki on preventing scams targeting seniors
Yvonne Ziomecki on preventing scams targeting seniors

Online purchases: Reported loss – $6,000

Beware of pop-up ads, especially on social media. Many websites have been created in the last two to three months targeting consumers who are at home because of the pandemic.

Story continues below advertisement

Online shoppers should check the website address before purchasing, visit reputable retailer websites, and make sure the company has legitimate contact information and a physical address.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Counterfeit Chinese-made face masks pulled offline after Global News probe

Employment scams: Reported loss – $5,739

Be very cautious when looking for a job, the organization warns. Scammers know thousands of people are looking for work right, so they will put up fake ads pretending to be employers or recruiters.

The bureau recommends to be wary of job postings that don’t require special training or licensing, or that don’t require an interview. Job seekers should also check a company’s jobs page directly to ensure the posting is legitimate.