Keep alert to chase scam artists away
Every year, Canadians lose millions of dollars to fraudsters who bombard us online, by mail, door-to-door, and on the telephone. Those attempts probably sound familiar, but you may be surprised to hear that one of the most heartbreaking fraud scenarios is called the 'emergency scam' and it targets grandparents. Typically a grandparent receives a call from a scammer pretending to be one of his or her grandchildren. The caller goes on to say that they are in some kind of trouble and need money immediately. The scammer often claims to have been in a car accident, to be having trouble returning from a foreign country, or to need bail money. The caller asks you not to tell anyone and to wire some money through a cash transfer company. Often, the victims don't verify the information until after the money is sent.
Fraudsters are cunning and heartless fast talkers who show no mercy when it comes to conning people into handing over their hard-earned money. They target people of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds and incomes and lure people into paying for fake emergencies, lotteries, internet scams, get-rich-quick schemes, and miracle health or weight loss programs.
If someone calls or approaches you for money, think twice before handing over a dime. The Competition Bureau is suggesting some ways to protect yourself, so clip or print the following list and place it near your phone or computer as a guide for everyone in your home:
• Protect your identity at all times. Only give out personal information when you can absolutely trust the person you are talking to.
• Never send money to anyone you don't know or trust. Never send money or pay any fee to claim a prize or lottery winnings and never wire money to someone whose identity you cannot confirm. Never give your credit card or banking information over the phone unless you know the person.
• Ask for identification and be assertive. Demand to see identification with door-to-door salespeople and send them away if you're not comfortable.
• Beware of text scams or spam e-mail. Never reply to spam e-mail or text messages from people or organizations you have never heard of. Be wary even if messages appear to come from a source you know - legitimate banks would never ask for account information in an e-mail or text.
• Beware of free downloads and requests for passwords. A “free” game, application or trial offer that requires a credit card number can lead to charges you didn't expect. Downloading suspicious content can harm your computer and compromise your identity. Choose uncommon passwords and change them regularly.
To learn more about fraud, what you can do to protect yourself, and how you can report a scam, go to www.antifraudcentre.ca or call 1-888-495-8501. The Competition Bureau is also helpful at www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/fraud, or by phone toll-free,1-800-348-5358.