Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a new wave of scammers and criminals who want to continue to take advantage of Canadians – in anyway they can. March is Fraud Prevention Month, but that doesn’t mean every month shouldn’t be a month to be mindful and vigilant when doing any of your financial business.
Here are some scams and tips in how to better protect yourself:
1. Buying and selling scams
During the pandemic, people who have never shopped online before started buying groceries on the internet, and much more. Simply put: beware of fraudsters looking to buy goods or services that you are selling online. Fraudsters often contact sellers via email or text with a generic message wanting to buy an item without seeing it. They might claim to be out-of-town or travelling at this point, and the might offer to pay for an item above the asking price. There might be an email message saying the money will only be transferred once a tracking number is provided by the seller. The seller will then ship the product and provide the tracking number to the fraudster. Shortly after, the seller will realize that the payment notification was fake and that no money is available.
Warning signs for any buy-sell scams:
- Be cautious of blowout sales or greatly reduced prices (for example, 80% off)
- Watch for odd spelling errors in any email or email address
- Beware of overpayments for items you are selling
- Beware of high volume purchases that need to be shipped urgently
2. General financial scams
These could be in the form of grants, loans, jobs or any investments that target your financial hardship.
Warning signs for any financial scams:
- Any investment opportunities that market higher than normal (i.e., 8-9%) returns
- Any unsolicited investment offers
- Investments that signal urgency to buy now, don’t delay, this won’t be offered again, other
- Investments or loans that offer instant approvals
- Unsolicited messages offering employment or any jobs
- Any promise that requires an upfront fee
3. Identity theft
Working from home, performing your online banking, and socializing online have all increased in activity since the pandemic but sadly, so has identity theft. These are some of the signs your personal information might have been compromised:
- Missing bills or essential mail doesn’t show up
- Suspicious activity on your bank or credit card statements
- Letters stating that you’re approved or declined credit that you did not apply for
- Unauthorized applications or accounts on your credit report
- Creditor or collection agency calls about an application or account you do not have
- Bills from service providers that you do not use
- Phishing emails asking you to click on links or open attachments
Here are some good practices:
- Reject/block unsolicited emails, texts, SMS or unrecognized phone calls; that includes really anything you don’t recognize by a family member or friend
- Avoid requests for your social insurance number (SIN)
- Do not open any email, texts or links that look suspicious
- Avoid automatic login features that save your username and password that is used for multiple sites
- Check your credit report at least once a year
- To get a free copy of your report, contact: Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada
4. Other online scams
Although we’re learning to live with the COVID-19 virus including any related variants, Canadians are increasingly relying on their online networks to remain connected. This presents opportunities for fraudsters who are actively creating fake accounts, profiles and advertisements. Here are some prevalent online scams and warning signs to mindful of:
In romance scams, fraudsters will gain the trust of their victims by carrying on a relationship over a period of time. This can include displays of affection like sending gifts, flowers and tokens to prove that their feelings are genuine. In many cases, the fraudster will claim to be a professional business person or military personnel that are travelling or stationed abroad. Once trust is gained, fraudsters will begin to ask for financial assistance for reasons like urgent situations (e.g. a sick family member or to complete a business transaction) or to return to the country (e.g. plane ticket, lawyer fees, or duty & taxes).
Learn more about romance scams.
From ads offering guaranteed work permits and high paying jobs in Canada to websites that offer services to expedite your immigration application, fraudsters are using Canada’s good reputation to scam people looking to come to Canada. Victims will be asked to pay high fees via Money Service Businesses like Western Union or MoneyGram, e-transfer, Visa or prepaid gift cards in order to process an application for visas and/or work permits. Once money is sent, the fraudster ends contact with the victim.
Learn how to protect yourself from immigration fraud.
Warning signs for other scams:
- Criminals want to meet in person but cancel or they have an excuse and want some online compenstion instead
- Fraudsters want to develop any quick relationship with you
- Be cautious of an individual that claims to live close to you but is working overseas or now travelling often
- You are asked to pay to access immigration forms and guidance, or to deliver a service
- Any website offers to fast-track your processing time – including the provision of a deposit before you even start the application process
- You must provide credit card information to register for a free trial.
This article was originally sourced from www.myownadvisor.ca