The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has released its annual list of the top 10 scams from 2015 in the hopes of warning people about what to look out for this year.
It has also released how much money people lost last year after falling for these scams.
1. Top Extortion Scam: CRA Income Tax Scam: Total Loss=$2.991 Million
While this scam did not lose the most money, it did generate the most complaints. People said they had received emails and aggressive phone calls telling them to pay a fictitious tax return debt. They were told they must pay by credit card immediately or face court charges, jail or deportation.
CONSUMER TIP from the BBB: The CRA will never request payment for taxes by a prepaid credit card, nor will they ask you for private information that you would not already have included on your tax return such as your passport, health card or driver’s license numbers. CRA will never leave personal information in a message, nor ask you to leave a message containing personal information. If you have an outstanding balance from CRA you will likely receive written notification, well in advance of receiving any phone contact. If you receive a suspicious call, hang up. If you have concerns about your taxes contact CRA directly at 1-800-959-5525.
2. Top Heartbreak Scam: Catphishing: Total Loss=$15.62 Million
People lost the most money to this type of scam last year. Scammers work to gain their victim’s trust, while never meeting face to face.
CONSUMER TIP from the BBB: Do not give out personal information or send money to someone you have never met. Be wary of sob stories and reasons why they won’t meet you in person.
3. Top Prize Scam: Fake Lottery Winnings: Total Loss=$6.597 Million
This scam works when people convince their victims they have won a prize in the U.S. lottery, but they have to pay a fee to collect it. If you did not enter the lottery, you have not won.
CONSUMER TIP from the BBB: Most legitimate airline, hotels and vacation booking agents do not participate in telemarketing promotions, solicitations or unsolicited prize giveaways. Before giving out any personal information to “claim” a prize, ask to see the details of the prize in writing and carefully read the fine print. Some vacation prize giveaways may cost you more than you are willing to pay.
4. Top Financial Scam: Investment Fraud: Total Loss=$6.072 Million
Investment fraudsters will gain your trust and then invest your money in pyramid schemes or investments that never existed. Victims are often told they are guaranteed high returns on their investments.
CONSUMER TIP from the BBB: Get a second opinion before you invest and know that all investment carries risk. You can also look for BBB reviews on investment firms.
5. Top Employment Scam: Secret Shopper: Total Loss=$3.952 Million
For those who want to be a secret shopper for a company, if someone sends you a cheque and asks you to deposit it and send a chunk of money back, it’s likely a scam. The cheque will bounce.
CONSUMER TIP from the BBB: Any job that asks you to give them money or pay an admin fee is not a job, it’s a scam.
6. Top Subscription Scam: Free Trial Traps: Total Loss=$2.982 Million
This scam works when consumers are asked to sign up for a free trial of a service and have to pay a nominal fee. Once the scammers have your credit card information then you are enrolled in paying a monthly expensive subscription.
CONSUMER TIP from the BBB: Read all terms and conditions and be sure to read reviews of a company before signing up for anything.
7. Top Imposter Scam: Spear Phishing: Total Loss=$5.826 Million
Be on the lookout for fake websites and emails that look like services we use all the time. When people click on insecure links they can be duped into signing up for something and losing money.
CONSUMER TIP from the BBB: Only shop on secure and legitimate websites. Do not follow any questionable links and if you are online shopping, make sure to look for a ‘lock’ symbol in the URL.
8. Top Private Sale Scam: Overpayment/Refund: Total Loss=$5.322 Million
People lose money on this scam when posting on websites like Craigslist or Kijiji. Someone pretends to be interested in what you are selling, and sends you too much money for the product. They then ask you to send the difference back, but often the cheque they sent you is fake.
CONSUMER TIP from the BBB: Be careful if someone offers you more money for something and if possible, sell to someone local in person.
9. Top Emergency Scam: Fake Relative Needs Cash: Total Loss=$1.952 Million
Someone can quite easily find out a little information about you through social media. They then call you up and use that information to pretend they are a relative and they need money to help them out of a problem.
CONSUMER TIP from the BBB: Do not send money to someone you don’t know.
10. Top Lending Scam: Advance Fee Loans: Total Loss= $989,634
Asking for a fee upfront to secure a loan is illegal in Canada.
CONSUMER TIP from the BBB: Check reviews from the BBB before using a money lending company and don’t hand over any money if a company wants any to secure a loan.