As they pursue their victims’ most sensitive information, fraudsters and identity thieves are known for appealing to people’s emotions in the hopes that they will drop their guard. Data from the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker shows that was no different last year, when scammers prodded their victims with fear, love and hope on their way to robbing Canadians of more than one billion dollars.
The Better Business Bureau estimates Canadians parted with as much as $1.2 billion as a result of scams last year. Leading the way were three familiar scams, all of which use emotion to disarm consumers before requesting cash or personal information. Despite their lack of originality, says BBB president Danielle Primrose, these same scams continue to prove successful for scammers.
“The bad news is scammers are finding new ways, new disguises to ply us with the same scams,” Primrose said in a statement by the BBB.
By taking a look at last year’s most common scams, perhaps we can be better equipped to put an end to this cycle.
All year long, scammers hit the phones, calling countless Canadians and posing as representatives of the Canadian Revenue Agency. While the scam took a number of different forms, in the most common the “agent” threatened to arrest or deport the victim unless he or she paid a series of made-up back taxes. Even if they were confident they were caught up on their taxes, this ultimatum instilled fear in its victims. In total, CRA scammers came away with $2.9 million last year, according to the BBB.
To avoid this trap between fear and vulnerability, the CBC reminds consumers that the CRA never operates with the aggression scammers use over the phone. Rather than engage with the caller, the CBC advises people to simply hang up and contact the CRA directly with any questions about their account.
Of all the scams the BBB tracked this year, none netted close to the amount that romance scams brought in. According to Primrose, the $15.6 million scammers stole through fake relationships is nearly $10 million more than the total in any other category.
“Canadians are still giving away money in hopes of a new romantic relationship,” Primrose said in the release. “When as many as 20 percent of online profiles are believed to be fake, it’s an area where users really need to proceed with caution.”
Romance scammers may seem relatively benign at the beginning of new online relationships, taking it slow to mask their true intentions. At some point, however, they will start asking questions looking for personal information, or may even ask for cash or gifts. These scams are particularly difficult to deal with, as fraudsters wait until their victim feels a romantic connection before asking for help.
While you should avoid sending money or financial details over the internet anyway, this is especially true when dealing with someone you have never met in person. Before you begin revealing personal details about yourself to anyone you meet online, suggest a fact-to-face meeting. If he or she cancels or avoids this meeting again and again, there is a chance things may not be as they appear.
In this take of the well-known prize scam, fraudsters call or email their victims to announce they have won a lottery prize. Even though they don’t remember entering the contest, some consumers agree to pay a fee to unlock their prize. As it turns out, there is no lottery, and the fee simply becomes the prize for the scammer.
To make sure scammers don’t add your cash to the $6.5 million the BBB reports they gathered from this approach last year, simply hang up or ignore emails in which you’re asked to pay a fee to access a prize, especially if you don’t remember entering the sweepstakes. As the CBC puts it, “If you didn’t enter a contest, no one is going to give you the winning prize, even for a fee.”
While it may be easy to identify these as scams in hindsight, many scams are difficult to discern at the time. To help protect your identity in case a fraudster gets ahold of your information, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. With its protection, you can get notified if certain activity shows on your credit file that may indicate fraud.
Contact us to learn more or get started today.