Canadians (mostly women) seeking romance from strangers pretending to be members of the military or oil rig engineers on Facebook lost $19 million to online Lotharios in 2017.
But, according to the Better Business Bureau, romance ruses weren’t the biggest scams of 2017. Branches of the BBB across Canada annually track the most prevalent scams with information gathered from the Scam Tracker website, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and concerns brought forward by sponsors and community partners. In 2016, scammers took more than $90 million from Canadians. But there is some good news. A call centre in India was raided in 2016 and the dreaded Canada Revenue Agency Tax Scam dropped off dramatically. While the numbers for that scam remain down, it has not gone away entirely. And while the BBB has focussed on the top 10 scams for the sake of this list, it warns there were thousands of others reported to the Scam Tracker website. And even though it’s believed only five per cent of victims come forward, Canadians were bilked of more than $95 million in 2017. Taking that into account, it’s believed the actual losses quickly balloon to the range of $2 billion dollars.
The BBB recommends one key way to prevent being scammed is to regularly change your passwords to online accounts. With that in mind, the BBB is launching its third annual National BBB Password Day, March 15, to remind Canadians to change their passwords . If you do spot a business or offer that sounds like an illegal scheme or fraud, let the BBB know at bbb.org/scamtracker.
Top 10 scams for 2017
Online purchase scams
More than $13 million lost
The most reported type of scam to BBB Scam Tracker. From fake websites to counterfeit goods to free trial traps and more, online purchase scams are everywhere.
Tips: Shop on reputable websites, read all terms and conditions and be wary of offers that are “too good to be true.”
More than $20 million lost
Canadian businesses lose millions every year to those posing as CEOs who redirect company money through wire and email transfers.
Tips: Build in payment redundancy systems, make sure email addresses are correct and educate your employees about these scams.
More than $19 million lost
Canadians lost a lot more than their hearts to catphishers in 2017. Online dating scams continue unabated to hurt those looking for love.
Tips: Never send money to someone you’ve never met, always meet in person and don’t give out personal information such as email and phone number.
More than $5 million lost
Last year’s number one scam slides down the list, but still targets Canadians through reputable employment websites.
Tips: If you didn’t apply, you didn’t get hired. A legitimate company would not ask you to wire money as a “test.”
More than $1.7 million lost
Cryptocurrencies are speculative, high-risk investments that are mostly unregulated. As they have captured the attention of investors, so too have fraudsters taken notice. There is an elevated risk of fraud and manipulation and some offerings may not comply with securities laws.
Income tax scam
More than $5 million lost
For years Canadians coast to coast have been targeted in the CRA tax scam. While we are getting better at recognizing it, the threatening phone calls keep coming.
Note: The Canadian Revenue Services does not make threatening phone calls. The CRA will not solicit personal information over the phone or by email. Canadian government agencies do not accept payment in Bitcoin.
Miracle weight loss scam
Losing weight is a goal for many Canadians. Be careful, many fat-burning products may only lighten your wallet.
Tips: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t trust unsubstantiated claims. There is no magic pill for rapid weight loss.
Advance fee loans
More than $1.5 million lost
The shady lender guarantees you’ll get a loan. They turn around and ask for an upfront payment as security.
Tips: If you’re approved for a loan and they request money as security, walk away. Research reputable lenders. A guarantee of a loan before any credit check is highly suspect.
More than $3 million lost
Yes, this is still a problem. Contractors without a conscience who take your deposit and disappear.
Tips: Be wary of unsolicited offers of work and get several estimates for a job.
Millions of Canadians have online accounts with companies like Amazon, UPS, Canada Post and iTunes and their email inbox is often stuffed with realistic looking invoices from many different organizations.
Tips: Contact the organization directly if you have concerns. Compare details of the invoice to your original order. Don’t click on any links or input personal information. Go to BBB.org to research trustworthy companies.