These were the 10 biggest scams in Canada last year

Mar 1 2018, 2:52 am

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has released its list of the top 10 scams in Canada for 2017.

The news is not good.

According to the Danielle Primose, president and CEO of BBB BC, Canadians lost over $95 million to a variety of scams in 2017.

Primrose made the comments at a morning press conference at Vancouver Police headquarters on Wednesday.

She noted that this is likely “only a fraction” of actual losses, because many scams never get reported.

Here are the top 10 scams of 2017.

Online Purchase Scams

This is the “most reported” type of scam the BBB receives.

Last year, Primrose said, Canadians lost over $13 million to this scam. Complaints include everything from fake websites, to counterfeit goods, to “free trial traps,” and more.

Primrose offered tips to help people avoid these scams:

  • Shop on reputable websites
  • Read all terms and conditions
  • Be wary of offers that are “too good to be true”

Wire Fraud / Spearphishing

Primose said scammers posing as CEO’s who redirect company money through wire and email transfers is a real problem for Canadian businesses.

In fact, over $20 million was lost in 2017 to this grift.

Some tips to avoid this scam include:

  • Build in payment redundancy systems
  • Make sure email addresses are correct
  • Educate your employees about these scams

Romance Scam

In what she called “the saddest one of them all,” Primrose said Canadians lost over $19 million in 2017 to online dating scams – up from $17 million in 2016.

She added that “without a doubt,” there are many more victims affected by this con, but are “too ashamed to come forward.”

It’s estimated, she added, that 25% of online dating profiles are fake.

To help others avoid furute heartbreak and finacial loss, Primrose had some tips for those looking for love online:

  • Never send money to someone you’ve never met
  • Always meet in person
  • Don’t give out personal information such as email and phone number

Employment Scams

While it may be a bit further down the list this year, Primrose said fake job offers are still effecting job-seekers through the clever use of reputable employment websites.

Millennials, she added, are the most likely to become victims.

And last year, more than $5 million went into the pockets of criminals using this method.

Primorose reminded people that a legitimate company would not ask potential employees to wire money as a “test.”

Remember, she added, “if you didn’t apply, you didn’t get hired.”

Cryptocurrency Scams

Speculative and high-risk, cryptocurrency scams involve investments that “are mostly unregulated,” said Primrose.

“As they have captured the attention of investors, so too have fraudsters taken notice,” she said.

Last year, Canadians lost over $1.7 million to cryptocurrency fraud.

Primrose said due to the nature of these scams, there is an “elevated risk”of fraud and manipulation as some offerings may not comply with securities laws.

Income Tax Scam

While it’s nothing new, scams involving the CRA continue to target unsuspecting Canadians across the country.

In 2017, over $5 million was lost to this recurring problem.

Primrose offered a few reminders to those who are unsure if the caller on the other end is actually with the CRA, or just looking to cash in on unsuspecting victims:

  • The CRA does not make threatening phone calls
  • The CRA will not solicit personal information over the phone or by email
  • Canadian government agencies do not accept payment in Bitcoin

Miracle weight-loss scams

Losing weight is a goal for many Canadians, said Primrose. “Be careful, many fat-burning products may only lighten your wallet.”

As always, “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Some tips to help avoid these types of scams?

  • Don’t trust unsubstantiated claims
  • There is no magic pill for rapid weight loss. A proper diet, lifestyle, and exercise is just as important as ever.

Advance Fee Loans

In this type of scam, a “shady lender” guarantees you’ll get a loan, explained Primrose. “They turn around and ask for an upfront payment as security.”

The easiest way to avoid falling into this trap?

“If you’re approved for a loan and they request money as security, walk away.”

In addition, always take the time to research reputable lenders before doing business. “A guarantee of a loan before any credit check is highly suspect.”

Last year, $1.5 million was lost to this scam.

Shady Contractors

Yes, this is still a problem according to Primrose. “Contractors without a conscience who take your deposit and disappear.”

The scam still has far-reaching affects too, as over $3 million was reported lost to this scam in 2017.

Some advice to avoid falling victim to this scam?

  • Be wary of unsolicited offers of work
  • Get several estimates for a job
  • Research trustworthy companies online through the BBB.

Fake Invoices

Fake invoice scams are the only one on the top 10 list in which the BBB said related financial losses are “unknown.”

“Millions of Canadians have online accounts to companies like Amazon, UPS, Canada Post, and iTunes,” said Primrose. “Your email inbox is often stuffed with realistic looking invoices from many different organizations.”

To help avoid falling prey to scammers while conducting online payments, Primrose offered a few tips:

  • Contact the organization directly if you have concerns.
  • Compare details of the invoice to your original order
  • Don’t click on any links or input personal information
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