In the past year Canadians have lost hundreds and thousands of dollars to various types of scams.
In this day and age, the Better Business Bureau says most people are targeted online.
“The incidents that we’re hearing of most these days, it starts on social media,” says Peter Moorehouse, President and CEO of the BBB serving Atlantic Canada.
One of the most common scams, especially among older people, is the romance scam.
“Somebody will send you a friend request on Facebook or on one of the dating sites, start to build a relationship with somebody who is lonely, who is vulnerable, who is looking for a partner in life,” Moorehouse tells NEWS 95.7’s The Todd Veinotte Show.
Canadians have lost over $22 million to romance scams in the last year. Usually romance scams are longer-term and last up to six months.
“They never, of course, meet in person, but then the requests for money start coming,” says Moorehouse. “It’s usually a bit of a heartstrings play. My kid is sick or my parent is sick, I have to go visit them and I don’t have money, can you send me a little bit of money to help me out?”
Another popular scam around tax time is the CRA scam, which Canadians lost $6 million to last year.
“It’s a very, very threatening, intimidating call telling you that you haven’t paid the taxes that you owe. And they’re threatening arrest and all sorts of things unless you pay up quickly,” adds Moorehouse.
The CEO says the biggest red flag with these is the payment method the scammer is asking for.
“They’re asking for you to pay up in either pre-paid VISA cards or some other sort of unconventional payment method that the CRA would never in a million years ask for,” he explains.
Although the BBB talks about these scams regularly, Moorehouse says no matter how much attention they get people always fall victim.
“Every time I think that we’ve talked about any of these too much, I read another story about somebody who’s lost, in some cases thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to one of these things,” he says.
Moorehouse says that many people, especially the elderly, don’t report scams because they’re embarrassed.
“There’s a feeling that it’s going to make them seem like they can’t look after themselves, like they’re vulnerable,” he says. “We know that what people report, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Canadians also lost money to online shopping scams this year, which don’t get reported as much because the amounts lost are smaller dollar amounts.
“In many cases these people are losing $25, $30, maybe $100 and they don’t bother reporting it as a scam,” Moorehouse says.
Despite that, the number of online shopping scams still added up to $3.5 million last year.
Moorehouse says that scamming operations, usually based overseas, have large volumes of targets.
“About five years ago there was a bust of a massive call centre in Mumbai, India where they had 700 people arrested,” he says. “Seven hundred people making these calls over and over again.”
And once that money is gone, via wire transfers like Western Union or prepaid VISA cards, it’s hard to recover.
“Once the cash is out on the other end it’s pretty much impossible to get it back,” Moorehouse says.
Because scammers use stories that tug at the heart strings, Moorehouse says they depend on snap decisions.
“Scammers prey on unthinking actions, so knee-jerk decisions to send money, especially in these unconventional payment methods,” he says.
The BBB recommends always calling back the company at their listed online phone number to check the status of your account.
“Your bank or your utility or the CRA will always let you call them, and in fact that’s exactly what you should do,” he says. “You should never give anybody who calls you personal information.”
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