As a result of thousands of COVID-related scams reported during the pandemic, a Toronto lawyer is advising Canadians to do their research before buying something online, making an investment, or giving out personal information.
Tanya Walker, a lawyer and managing partner at Walker Law in Toronto, says in her 15 years of practice she has seen a “huge increase in the amount of fraud-type cases where people are getting scammed, and it’s very difficult to collect their money.”
Some of the most common scams include Ponzi schemes; phishing where scammers send an email or text pretending to be from an institution such as a bank, Netflix or Amazon in order to trick people into providing personal or financial information; romance and Catfish scams; and fake online stores that are designed to steal credit card information.
Walker told CTV’s “If it’s a store, you might want to try and call the store.”
“You could check with the Better Business Bureau, there’s just different ways you can go about verifying if that store is actually authentic. Also check the URL. Some URLs are just not really legitimate. So it’s important to do a little bit of research just to make sure the store is actually the store you’re buying from.”
There has been increasing reports of fraud in the United States last year, with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission fielding more than 4.7 million reports through its Consumer Sentinel Network, including in excess of 2.1 million involving fraud. Consumers in the U.S. reported losing more than $3.3 billion to fraud in 2020.
In 2019, the FTC received 3.2 million reports through Sentinel, including nearly 1.7 million fraud reports, as well as identity theft and other incidents. Consumers reported more than $1.9 billion lost to fraud.
Meanwhile in Canada, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports that from March 6, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, there were more than 28,000 reports of COVID-19 fraud, with more than 26,000 Canadians victimized. In total, $7.75 million has been lost to COVID-19 fraud, the centre reports.
The latest figures from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre display that between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2021, a total of 33,707 reports of fraud were made in Canada, involving 16,719 victims and more than $163 million in losses.
The largest reported loss in Canada has come from investment fraud, out of 1,273 reports, 1,145 victims and nearly $61.7 million in dollars lost.
SPAM COMPLAINTS RISE THROUGH 2021
Walker gave four reasons that may explain why reports about scams appear to be up during the pandemic, including 1.) people spending more time on social media,
2.) scams that appear legitimate,
3.) the ease of moving money in and out of the country, and
4.) relatively low investment rates, with more people interested in investing privately as opposed to a financial institution
Walker added that “if a return on investment seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
“Sometimes, if a corporation calls me, I might say, ‘I’m not really comfortable giving you my information on the telephone. Can I hang up and call you back? Just give me your extension,’ and then I’ll do a little bit of research online to make sure the number they provided to me is the number of the actual company.”
Walker suggested that Canadians should register their number with the National Do Not Call List to reduce the chance of receiving telemarketing calls, with penalties ranging from up to $1,500 for individuals to $15,000 for corporations.
CTV news reported that “the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission tracks complaints made to the Spam Reporting Centre. More than 163,500 complaints were made between Oct. 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020. Over the following six months, that fell to more than 140,945 before rising to 144,560 between Oct. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, and again to more than 154,406 from April 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2021.”
This article was originally sourced by www.ctvnews.ca.