It’s the 7th annual Fraud Prevention Month. Whether it’s Internet or mail fraud, deceptive telemarketing or identity theft, fraud is a serious problem. “Statistics showing one million adult Canadians have fallen victim to mass marketing fraud highlight the need for more consumer education and vigilance,” said Sheridan Scott, Commissioner of Competition Bureau Canada.
With new scams being invented on a daily basis (there’s so much to be on the lookout for beyond the Nigerian prince scam!), it is important recognizing the signs of fraud, reporting it to authorities, and stop it.
Tips to Help you Avoid Being Scammed
- Don’t let your hunger for a bargain get in the way of common sense. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for free trial offers, especially when you need a credit card to get started. The fine print might state something that you don’t want to get into, like being automatically charged a monthly amount on your credit card once the trial is over.
- Job scams are prevalent, especially in tough economic times. Beware of overpaid work-at-home “opportunities,” job ads which claim that you don’t need any experience. These ads often have no legitimate contact information. There’s a lot to be skeptical about including being asked to pay for work supplies before you get any job training or even start the job or someone asking for your banking info to set -up direct deposit (this info can be used to steal your money and your identity).
- If someone tells you you’ve won a prize or a lottery, ensure you actually entered the contest. Also, legitimate lotteries in Canada do not require winners to pay any fees up front to get their prize.
- Beware of any offer that involves wiring money or cashing cheques (especially if you are asked to return a portion of the funds).
- Always ask for documentation before you pay an invoice or accept an order.
- If you wish to donate, contact the organization yourself. New scams and fake charities always arise, in particular, around Christmas and in the wake of natural disasters and often encourage us to think with our hearts instead of our heads. Be aware of that trap.
- Do not give out personal or financial information via phone, email or fax. Do not use a call-back number or link provided in an email; phone the agency directly.
- Emergency scams are often called Grandparent scams and target older individuals with grandchildren. The fraudster will make a call pretending to be the victim’s grandchild claiming to be in an emergency situation and that they need money immediately.
- Learn to spot phishing emails and phone calls. These appear to come from legitimate businesses and ask you to “verify your account” or “confirm your identity.” They may contain threats such as “respond within 48 hours or your account will be closed.” Hang up on these calls and delete these messages. Remember that con artists are experts at manipulating and exploiting, and they can be charming and persuasive. The bottom line is you shouldn’t believe them or their deceptions.
I know I make it seem like there is suspicious activity lurking around every corner, but the truth is, I’m suspicious. So, I would say be vigilant. Fraud is one of those things that is easier to prevent than to cure.
Think you have been a victim of fraud? Any instances of fraud should be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (www.antifraudcentre.ca or 1-888-495-8501) and the Credit Bureaus — Equifax (1-800-645-7166) and TransUnion (1-866-525-0262) right away to put a Fraud Alert on your individual or business profile (this is especially important if you have become the victim of identity theft), and inform the police, your financial institution(s) and your credit card companies.