‘Verify the legitimacy’: Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre warning of 12 holiday Christmas scams

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Canadians lost more than $527 million through various scams over the first six months of 2023, according to figures reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

With the holidays just around the corner, scammers are eager to turn the season of giving into a season of taking Canadians’ hard-earned cash.

Jeff Horncastle, acting client and communications outreach officer for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, notes that while fraud amounts to hundreds of millions in annual losses, the real number is likely several times greater, with only five to 10 per cent of cases being reported to authorities.

Knowing that once you unwittingly give scammers your cash the funds are likely gone for good, Horncastle says awareness is the best tool to avoid becoming the next victim. The centre has compiled a list of the 12 scams of the holidays to keep consumers aware of the latest schemes.

1. Counterfeit merchandise. These scams accounted for more than $331,000 in reported losses during the first six months of 2023. Consumers are advised to watch out for flashy discount ads offering huge discounts that direct consumers to websites that mimic the real manufacturer’s site.

2. Selling goods and services online. Service scams totalled $12.8 million in reported losses during the first half of this year. Consumers are advised to be suspicious of payment offers that are more than the asking price. Make sure you have received a legitimate payment before you send the product.

3. Fake charities. A charitable donation dedicated to a loved one can be the perfect gift for a recipient who has everything. But before you give, ensure the charity is registered with Canada Revenue Agency. Search this directory to confirm your chosen charity is listed.

4. Romance scams. Accounting for more than $27.6 in reported losses during the first half of this year, romance scams begin with a fake identity that lures victims into a web of lies.

5. Online shopping. Beware of fraudsters who post fake ads for items that do not exist at prices that seem too good to be true. Horncastle urges consumers do your research before you buy.

“Try to use a payment mechanism that offers fraud protection,” said Horncastle, such as a credit card. Conduct transactions in person, when possible, in a safe place. Many local police services offer a safe transaction zone, for example, where goods can be sold.

6. Phishing emails and texts. While these scams are prevalent throughout the year, you might receive a call or text about a special holiday offer for wireless services or some other promotion. Keep in mind, the call or text may be coming from a scammer looking to steal your identity. When in doubt, Horncastle urges consumers to hang up the phone.

“Always advise the person you’re going to call them back to verify the legitimacy,” said Horncastle. “End the phone call, look up the service provider’s number and open a call yourself.”

7. Secret Santa. Gift exchange posts on social media feeds may seem like a harmless trend, but keep in mind, this exchange can also collect some of your personal information and hide a pyramid scheme, which is illegal in Canada.

8. Prize notifications. Beware unsolicited letters, calls or emails stating you’ve won millions. These messages typically ask the recipient to confirm their personal information and to cover a few fees before the prize is disbursed. Prize scams accounted for more than $1.9 million in losses reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre through the first six months of 2023. Remember: if you didn’t enter, you can’t win. In Canada, if fees are associated with a prize, they are removed from the total winnings. You are never required to pay fees in advance.

9. Emergency scam or grandparent scam. If a supposed loved one is reaching out to you claiming they need money for bail or a trip back home, be sure to confirm their identity. Hang up the phone and call your loved one back directly to make sure you’re not dealing with a scammer.

10. Gift cards. Gift cards are popular for the hard-to-buy-for people on your list. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre urges consumers to treat gift cards like cash. Once they’re exchanged, you probably won’t get your money back. No legitimate business will request payment in gift cards, so if someone pressures you to pay a debt using a gift card, it’s likely a scam.

11. Identity theft. During the holiday hustle and at all times of the year, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre urges you to keep your wallet on your person and cover your personal identification number. Never share passwords or provide your personal information on impulse.

12. Identity fraud. When it comes to stopping identity fraud, you need to be quick to limit the damage. Contact your financial institutions and the credit bureaus, Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada, as soon as you notice:

• Suspicious activity on your financial statements.

• Unauthorized activity on your credit report.

• Letters approving or declining credit applications you did not authorize.

• Re-routed mail.

• Bills from service providers you do not use.

• Your information was compromised as part of a database breach.

If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, or you’ve been targeted, you’re asked to contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or file a report online at www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca.

This article was originally sourced from www.toronto.com