Every year, Canada’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) releases its National List of Top 10 Scams to promote scam awareness and fraud prevention across the country. BBB reports that in 2018 alone, Canadians lost over $121 million to scammers, moving up from $95 million in 2017, and more than doubling the amount from 2015. While the losses continue to trend upwards, the percentage of victims that actually come forward to report the crime is still less than 10%, suggesting that actual losses could actually be somewhere in the range of $3 billion dollars this year.
While anyone can fall prey to the scams no matter the level of education, income or ethnic background, newcomers should take particular note as they can be vulnerable by nature of not knowing how systems work in Canada and being unfamiliar with Canadian laws and regulations.
Below is a list of the top 10 scams of 2018:
1. Romance Scams
2. Income Tax Extortion Scams
3. Online Purchase Scams
4. Employment Scams
6. Subscription Scams
7. Advance Fee Loans
8. Tech Support Scams
9. Home Improvement Scams
10. Bank Investigator Scams
Here are some specific scams for newcomers to watch out for:
Income Tax Extortion Scams
Commonly known as the CRA tax scam, this is number 2 on the list. The scammers impersonate the CRA and make aggressive phone calls or send emails claiming that the client owes the government money. They threaten newcomers with dire consequences if payment is not made. Remember that the CRA does not make aggressive phone calls to collect fees or threaten to arrest or deport you or ask that you pay fees using prepaid credit cards or similar services. If you get a suspicious call, ask for the name of the person calling and hang up. Verify that the call was real by calling the Canada Revenue Agency.
New immigrants are typically looking for jobs and could be vulnerable to this scam (Number 4 on the above list). Signs to watch out for include job posters who ask for a training fee or require you to share personal information such as your SIN number upfront, or you are being offered a job you never applied for. Do your research about the company that is offering you the job and check with your network of friends and acquaintances if a job offer sounds suspicious. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Advance Fee Loans
This scam (number 7 on the list) is all about trying to get people to pay an advance fee at the time of loan approval. The traditional process of securing a loan involves completing forms and going through background and credit checks. According to the BBB, “Many Canadians, in particular, new immigrants and seniors, may find this process extremely arduous, as their status usually finds them being unemployed, underemployed, having bad credit or a lack of credit history. These factors make them unattractive and unlikely candidates for a line of credit or other open credit options.” Advice to deal with the situation includes borrowing from people you know and trust, doing research about the lending platform (for instance check BBB for the platform’s business profile) and check loan terms and conditions, and verify policies on advanced fees.
Report the scams: what you can do
According to Danielle Primrose, President and CEO of Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Mainland BC and representative for BBBs across Canada, anyone can be a target. “Scams are evolving – they are more aggressive, devastating, convincing and there is now a scam for everyone. Scammers are bolder than ever, which is why we need to keep informed and take proactive steps to protect our information and finances. I cannot stress enough how important it is to report every instance of scams and frauds”.