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Avoid Common Scams In Canada & Protect Yourself From Financial Ruin And Fraud

Fraud is booming everywhere in Canada. As technology advances, scammers continuously use new technology advances to make their operations more efficient and effective. Scams in Canada often target seniors, but anyone can be vulnerable to fraud. The best way to protect yourself and your money is to recognize scams and prevent criminals from getting your information.

Scams and Fraud

The terms “scams” and “fraud” are often used interchangeably. Both typically involve using your personal information to steal money from you. In some cases, they may trick you into giving them your information, or they may get it without your consent.

When a scammer attempts to manipulate you into giving personal information, they may already know a bit about you. A common scam is called the “grandparent” or grandchild” scam. The scammer will contact you pretending to be the police, a hospital or a government agency. They will claim your grandchild is in trouble. They often know their name and will use it to get more information and money out of you.

Another way scammers can get your information is by sending links through emails, text messages or pop-ups. This practice is known as phishing. These messages may ask you to click the link or download a file. They may use the promise of free information or a prize to entice you. Once you click the link or download the file, they infect your computer with malware, allowing them to track your activity online and access your information, including your bank accounts.

How scammers operate

Anyone can be a victim of a scammer or fraudster. They will often manipulate your emotions, causing you to react before you think about the situation. They may use:

  • Fear-the threat is that something terrible will happen if you don’t comply with their request, or you’ll miss out on something valuable if you don’t respond immediately.
  • Compassion-fake charities often try to use your sense of compassion to get money from you.
  • Trust-they may spend time building an online relationship with you to establish themselves as a reliable business or a devoted romantic partner.
  • Desperation is a typical emotion used by debt relief, renter, and job seeker scams.

Common Scams

Fraud in Canada has increased significantly in the last few years. Losses in 2022 were $530 million, compared to $380 million in 2021. The RCMP believes actual losses are much more since they estimate only 5%-10% of people report the crime. Losses can sometimes lead to financial ruin or bankruptcy for the victim.

Seniors are often targets of scams and fraud, but anyone can be vulnerable. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre lists hundreds of scams that are currently circulating. The top 10 most common scams were:

Home Improvement

This scam tops the lists in 2022 and 2023. Home improvement scams can result from a contractor knocking on your door to sell their services or using a fake website, emails, or phone calls. The company will offer to perform services at a rock-bottom price but will demand some type of payment first, typically cash. Once you pay, the service will be inferior quality if they show up at all.

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency (crypto) scams can take many forms. Scammers may offer cryptocurrency as an investment opportunity with high returns. They may pose as a romantic interest needing financial help that you must send in crypto. Sometimes, they pose as law enforcement demanding bail for a relative that must be paid in crypto or state that your account is vulnerable to attack, and the way to protect it is to transfer your money to them in cryptocurrency.

Advance loan fees

Scammers act as loan companies or debt relief agencies offering you a loan if you pay an advance fee. They disappear once you pay the fee and you don’t get the loan.

Investment scams

There are many types of investment scams. They can involve crypto, Ponzi schemes, real estate, business opportunities, and much more. Generally, they promise high returns for a small investment. Some can keep their victims investing for months or years without the investors becoming suspicious. The result for most investors is that they lose some or all the money they invested.

Employment scams

This type of scam typically involves someone reaching out to you and posing as a recruiter. They may contact you via social media, text, or email. They offer the promise of a job but require you to pay for training, equipment, or send your bank account information so they can pay you. They may send you an advance payment as a bank draft. They ask you to deposit it and return most of it but keep a portion for yourself. The bank draft will be fake, the bank will take the entire draft back out of your account, and no job will be offered.

Online purchases

Many younger online shoppers are falling victim to online scams. Online purchases may never show up at your door, or the product may be of extremely low quality. Sometimes, the product you get doesn’t look like what you thought you ordered. Then, if you try to reach out to these online companies, often the website is often removed or ‘unreachable’.

Rentals

A more extreme scam are people pretending to be landlords asking for a security deposit for the first and last months’ rent. Sometimes, they rent the same unit to multiple people. You will lose your money in this scam and have no place to live.

Credit cards

Scammers use your credit card information to make purchases or draw cash advances from your card. If they have enough of your personal information, they can open credit cards in your name, running up large balances.

Travel/vacation/timeshare

Travel or vacation scams come in many forms. Fraudsters may contact you to say you’ve won a free vacation but must pay taxes and fees. You could find a rental in an area you want to vacation for a much lower price than other rentals, but it requires a deposit, or you must pay the rental fee in full. Scammers sometimes offer to sell you a vacation package at a discount but send you fake tickets. Timeshare scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate companies offering to buy your timeshare, but you must pay significant fees.

Phishing/social engineering

Scammers use phishing and social engineering to get you to reveal personal information online so they can use your information for fraudulent purposes. They pose as trustworthy businesses using email, text messages and websites. Their methods are usually persuasive, so you might not know you’re dealing with scammers.

New AI Scam Techniques

The rising frequency of AI-Generated scams in 2023 has been very disturbing to both individuals and  businesses.   AI can be used to produce texts, emails, messages and images of a specific person. It can clone a person’s voice, and in minutes make a video or audio of someone you know. In these cases, the red flags to watch for would be if someone you know is promoting an investment or contest that they don’t normally do, or if there is a sense of urgency or panic. Also listen for inconsistencies in their speech or lip movements if it is a video.

How to Protect Yourself From Scammers

It’s easier to protect yourself from scammers than to get your money back. Some ways to safeguard your information and your money are:

  1. Confirm the legitimacy of the company you’re dealing with. Check if they’re rated by the Better Business Bureau or contact them by phone using a number from a legitimate source.
  2. Don’t provide any information unless you have initiated the contact and you can verify you are talking to the right source. If someone calls saying they are the bank you deal with, call them back using the number on your debit or credit card.
  3. Safeguard all your personal information. Don’t leave important documents where criminals may see them; destroy any paperwork with your information before you dispose of it.
  4. Delay making decisions to hand over money or your information. If you didn’t solicit the interaction, independently verify everything you’re being told. If, for example, they tell you that you won a prize in a contest you didn’t enter, ensure this is legitimate before taking action.
  5. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Where to Get Help

Financial difficulties can make you vulnerable to scammers. The promise of a job, rental unit, or affordable vacation may seem like an opportunity you can’t pass up, but it can lead to severe problems. Being the victim of fraud or a scam can be financially devastating. In some cases, you have no recourse and could end up owing thousands of dollars because of fraud, possibly putting you in a position of having to seek financial help, or file for Bankruptcy.

If your financial situation seems overwhelming, we’re here to help. Our Licensed Insolvency Trustees at Allan Marshall and Associates will work with you to find the best way to deal with your debt. We offer government-approved solutions to help you gain back control of your finances, leaving you less vulnerable to scammers. If you need help with your debt, please contact us using our online contact form or call us at 1-888-371-8900 for a free consultation.

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Matthew Fader

“I joined Allan Marshall and Associates in 2017 as an Estate Manager and have worked in the insolvency field since 2005. I feel with my counselling experience and positive outlook, I help to reassure our clients that we are there to help with any debt questions or financial insecurities they may have. Our main company goal is to ensure the best possible experience for those needing our services and treat every client with dignity and respect throughout the process.”