Scammers and con artists are getting smarter and smarter and, as a result, Canadians are losing more and more money.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has just released its top 10 list of scams in 2019, representing the organization’s 10 local branches across Canada.
And its annual report this year, the BBB noted the rise of cryptocurrency scams across the country.
“Although employment scams remained the riskiest for the second year in a row, the surprise in the data was cryptocurrency in the #2 spot, with a median dollar loss of $3,000,” the BBB said in its report. “Two years ago, cryptocurrency scams were just emerging as a problem on BBB Scam Tracker.”
The Better Business Bureau added cryptocurrency as a scam category in 2019, and it leapt to the second riskiest scam.
“Scammers are opportunists,” said Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, which produced the report. “Whatever is in the news or being talked about on social media, they see as an opening. Scammers will also imposter a recognizable and respected organization or brand.”
These were the BBB’s top 10 scams of 2020.
You spot a Help Wanted ad online or receive an email or a text message from an “employer” asking you to apply for a position. The ad likely uses the name of a real business or government agency. You apply and get a quick response from the “hiring manager.” In recent versions of this scam, many victims report doing a phony interview through Google Hangouts or another video chat service. After you are “hired,” the company may charge you upfront for “training.” You may need to provide your personal and banking information to run a credit check or set up direct deposit.
You may be “accidentally” overpaid with a fake check and asked to deposit the check and wire back the difference. Or, you may need to buy expensive equipment and supplies to work at home. If you question the company’s methods, you’ll likely be met with a defensive response.
Cryptocurrency scams occur when the virtual coins are purchased from, traded by, or stored with a person or exchange site that turns out to be fraudulent. Sometimes these digital assets are purchased as part of a fraudulent Initial Coin Offering (ICO), in which investors are scammed into paying money or trading digital assets for a company or product that never materializes.
You are selling an item through an online service. A buyer contacts you claiming to be interested in purchasing the item. They may offer you more money for the item if you accept a cashier’s check or money order rather than following the site’s usual checkout process. The basic ploy is a simple one — you will not receive the items you paid for. The listing or website might be selling anything from a puppy to a used car. The seller may attempt to convince you to go outside the site’s usual payment methods, or to complete a purchase for a big ticket item, such as a car, sight unseen. The details and photos — often copied from a real seller’s listing — will look very real, but the low price may seem too good to be true (because it is).
Fake checks/money orders
Fake check and money order scams take many different forms, but the underlying con is the same. In all cases, the amount of the check is “accidentally” far more than the amount agreed to. The scammer instructs you to deposit the check, keep the amount owed, and wire back the difference. When you deposit the check, the funds will appear to be available within days. However, forgeries can take weeks to be discovered. Eventually the check bounces, but in the meantime you’ve wired back the “overpayment” to the scammer. A wire transfer is like sending cash; once it’s gone, it is very hard to trac
Advance fee loan
You receive an email or phone call, or see a flyer or online ad, offering you a great deal on a car, mortgage, payday, or other loan. The company may promise a “guaranteed” low interest rate, or tell you that you qualify for a special program. There are many versions of this con: home mortgage refinancing, low-cost government loans, student loan consolidation, special grants, or just an emergency loan to pay the bills.
The catch is some kind of fee up front, such as a “processing fee” or insurance to get the loan or to lock in the low interest rate. Once you hand over the payment, the “lender” vanishes along with the money.
Most romance scams start with fake profiles on online dating sites created by stealing photos and text from real accounts or elsewhere. Scammers often claim to be in the military or working overseas to explain why they can’t meet you in person. Over a short period of time, the scammer builds a fake relationship with you, exchanging photos and romantic messages, even talking on the phone or through a webcam.
Just when the relationship seems to be getting serious, your new sweetheart has a health issue, family emergency, or wants to plan a visit. No matter the story, the request is the same: They need money. But after you send money, there’s another request, and then another. Or the scammer stops communicating altogether.
Home improvement scams can start with a knock on the door, a flyer, or an ad. The contractor may offer a low price or a short timeframe. One common hook is when the scammer claims to be working in your neighbourhood on another project and has leftover supplies.
Once started, a rogue contractor may “find” issues that significantly raise the price. If you object, they threaten to walk away and leave a half-finished project. Or they may accept your upfront deposit and then never return to do the job. Following a natural disaster, scammers persuade homeowners to sign over their insurance payment.
the scammer convinces you to “invest” in a project, company, loan, or other initiative. You may even receive regular reports that the project is producing great returns. But when you try to withdraw your money, it turns out the investment never existed.
Another common investment con is a pyramid scheme or Ponzi scheme. You buy into a company where the profit doesn’t depend on the sale of the product, but on bringing in new investors. It’s mathematically impossible for these set-ups to continue indefinitely. Eventually, the pyramid collapses.
You get a telephone call or a popup on your computer screen from someone claiming to be with tech support from a well-known software company. Often the scammer will create a sense of urgency — the computer is sending error messages, they’ve detected a virus, or your computer is about to crash and you’ll lose all your data.
You are told only a tech support employee can fix the problem, and you’re asked to allow access to your machine. Once access is granted, the caller will often run a “scan” and claim your computer is infected with viruses. The scammer then offers to fix the problem for a fee.
That may not be the end of the scam. If you allow remote access, malware may be installed on your machine. Malware often scans files in search of personal information, which scammers can use to commit identity theft.
Watch out for scammers who post listings for properties that aren’t for rent, don’t exist, or are significantly different than pictured. These con artists then lure in vacationers with the promise of low fees and great amenities. Typically, the “owner” creates a false sense of urgency – such as telling you that another vacationer is interested in the rental – to get you to pay up before doing sufficient research.