#romancescams | Pandemic scams abound, expert warns

People with more idle time on their hands from the pandemic need to be vigilant or they could fall prey to many common scams, legal watchdog Peter Manstyrsky warns.

Manastyrsky is an associate with LegalShield, a provider of legal service plans. He often speaks to senior citizens and other groups about how to avoid risks.

Following many of his talks, Manastyrsky said he is approached by people afraid to share their stories in front of a crowd. They talk about how they have been victimized by identity fraud and other schemes.

“There are so many scams out there,” Manastyrsky said. “It’s been increasing in numbers, especially with certain scams.”

Manastyrsky said fraudulent schemes are on the rise given the increased time people spend at home. Lonely people are are targeted by romance scams and the increased use of digital payments has fraudsters phishing for passwords.

One oldie that persists is the travel, vacation or time-share scam, Manastyrsky said. Perpetrators target people online or by phone, offering tempting vacation packages at unrealistically low prices.

“Sometimes the deals are so unrealistic it is very simple to detect it’s not a real package,” Manastyrsky said.

He advised people to do their homework by checking to see if a company’s website is legitimate, and to never pay  or transfer cash for any such offer, as your recourse is limited if an offer does turn out to be fraudulent. He said that credit card companies often offer some protection, though it may be limited.

The average loss on such scams is $5,000.

With many people unable to qualify for loans, Manastyrsky said he has heard of a growing number of companies offering loans that require victims to pay fees up front, and then they never never see the cash. If you suspect you have been contacted by such a firm, consult your financial institution. The average victim loses $1,400 on advance fee loan xcams, Manastyrsky said.

Romance scams proliferate online, Manastyrsky said, adding that people of all ages are being targeted. Once bonds are formed on online dating sites or other forums, out come stories of needing money to help a sick family member or to pay for travel. The victim sends the money and never hears from the person again.

“The average loss is $4,000,” Manastyrsky said. “Never send money or give anyone your financial information. Ask questions very carefully.”

Always be suspicious when someone asks you to pay for something with cryptocurrency, Manastyrsky said. Unlike money kept in a bank account, cryptocurrency cannot be retrieved if stolen. The stakes are high, as the average victim loses $3,600.

“Research the exchange site and person you are doing business with, Manastyrsky said.

Employment scams are also popular, Manastyrsky said. Would-be ‘employers’ ask job applicants for their datea of birth, driver’s license numbers and banking information so a paycheque can be deposited. Be careful about which companies you apply to and do your research, Manastyrsky said.

“They can take your information and sell it,” Manastyrsky said.

Manastyrsky said he will be available for presentations to groups as restrictions lift. Contact him at 204-781-7472.

Tony Zerucha
Community correspondent – East Kildonan

Tony Zerucha is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email him at tzerucha@gmail.com

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