March is Fraud Prevention Month and local police are warning the public about the most common scam tactics. In a story posted on the Midland Police website, they feature some excellent tools and resources.
With the sheer number of telephone, internet, email and mail scams and frauds on the go at any moment, it is important to remind everyone that best defence against falling victim, or having those you care about falling victim is foreknowledge. Don’t just “assume” that “oh, everybody knows that’s a scam”. Many victims of scams are often unwilling to report it to police or family / friends, because they fear looking stupid, gullible or incompetent to handle their own affairs. This is especially true of our elderly.
Another sad reality is that there is little to no hope of ever getting your money back once you transfer it away through a network of receiving agents who relay the funds many times before it ever gets to those ultimately behind this billion dollar industry.
The key is never to get backed into a corner to make a decision without consulting with other people. As soon as you get any pressure to decide NOW and no time to consult someone else, or even google the situation (you’d be surprised how the scammer’s cookie cutter approach to each scam makes it easy to search online for others who have had the same issue), then you know you are dealing with something that is not right.
High pressure, threats, intimidation and no chance to think about the situation or consult anyone else are all tell-tale signs that you are about to lose money on whatever they are asking you to do.
TOP 10 SCAMS
The BBB says these are believed to be the most pervasive scams over the last year:
10. Sweepstakes scam – This one has been around for years: You get a message saying you’ve won a contest, lottery or sweepstakes event. Then you’re asked to pay fees or taxes in advance in order to claim your prize.
9. Click bait scam – Scammers use “click bait” such as news stories, celebrity photos, or fake news in order to get you to click on something that actually downloads malware that can harm your computer.
8. Robocall scam – This scam takes personal information like your credit card number, after promising to lower your credit card interest rates, but then charges fees to your card.
7. Government grant scam – Another one that requests fees so you can collect a government grant award for thousands of dollars. It may mention programs you’ve heard in the news.
6. Emergency or “grandparent” scam – Often preying on older people, a scammer poses as a relative in a call or email claiming to have been injured, robbed or arrested while traveling overseas. They ask their target to send money right away.
5. Medical alert scam: This involves a call or a visit from a “company” claiming a concerned family member has ordered you a medical alert device in case of an emergency. The scammer takes credit card or banking information, but never delivers the device.
4. Copycat website scam: Scammers send an email, text or social media post about a sale or exciting new product, linking to a website that looks like a legitimate retailer. After you order using your credit card, you get a cheap counterfeit product or nothing at all.
3. “Are you calling yourself?” scam: This trick puts your number in so it shows up on your own Caller ID, which causes many people to answer the phone or return the call.
2. Tech support scam: A call or pop-up ad on your computer claims to be from Microsoft / Norton / Apple about a problem on your computer and asking you to give “tech support” access to your hard drive in order to fix it. Instead, malware is installed on your computer and the scammers can steal your personal information.
1. Arrest scam: This trick starts with a call from someone claiming to be a police officer or government agent (often the CRA in Canada) who say they are coming to arrest you for overdue taxes or for skipping out on jury duty. They claim you can get out of it by sending them money via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
Equifax suggests checking your credit report at least once a year and reporting discrepancies immediately. Using strong passwords, activating the firewall on your computer, and never giving out personal information unless you have initiated the contact are some of their top tips to avoid fraud.
Another great resource is the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre: http://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm