Canadians lost more than $90 million to online and over-the-phone scams in 2016 – the highest in recent years, according to the Better Business Bureau of Canada.
The BBB released Tuesday the 10 best-of-the-worst types of fraud, based on what was most commonly reported through the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and the BBB Scam Tracker website.
The scam that hit people the hardest was through online dating, swindling $17 million out of the hands of Canadians last year. A fraudster would use a fake identity in an online dating profile to earn a potential victim’s trust and eventually ask for money or even steal things.
Another lucrative scheme was identity fraud, totalling $11 million reported lost.
Canada Revenue Agency fraudsters are also still popular, netting $4.3 million last year — an increase of nearly 50 per cent from the year before.
“The positive takeaway right now is that there appears to be more reporting going on, which would explain some of the increase in money lost,” said BBB CEO Danielle Primrose. “But at the end of the day, it still only represents at most five per cent of what was actually taken from Canadians.”
Primrose urged Canadians to be diligent and read things they find on the Internet with a grain of salt.
— BBB British Columbia (@BBB_BC) March 1, 2017
She also noted that a call centre in India allegedly behind a nationwide Canada Revenue Agency scam was raided in October, which made a bit of a dent in their efforts. But it was reportedly re-invented in December, with fraudsters attempting to re-scam previous victims by promising to return their lost money, for a small fee.
“There is a lot more work to be done and a lot more awareness to be raised and a lot more reporting to do,” she said. “Don’t be ashamed. Let someone know if you’ve been scammed.”
Top 10 scams of 2016, based on what was most reported:
1. Employment scams: $5.3 million reported
When scammers court people through LinkedIn and other job sites, or over the phone, offering a job and sometimes going as far to interview the potential victim. Then, the fraudster asks for forms to be filled out, sends a fake cheque and asks for the potential victim to withdraw the money – before the cheque bounces. Canadian banks are not responsible for the money lost.
2. Online dating scams: $17 million reported
Also known as ‘cat fishing,’ this scam occurs when a fraudster takes on a fake identity, earns the potential victim’s trust, and eventually starts asking for money.
3. Identity fraud: $11 million reported
When social insurance numbers are stolen, or passwords to bank accounts are figured out. This can be avoided by changing passwords on a regular basis, and never carrying around a SIN card.
4. Advance fee loans: $1.1 million reported
When scammers target those who aren’t approved for loans elsewhere and ask for a security deposit to release the funds. Paying an upfront fee for a loan is illegal in Canada.
5. Online purchase scams: $8.6 million reported
When fraudsters sell counterfeit merchandise, or goods that never show up, or offer fake free trials.
6. Wire fraud: $13 million reported
Also known as ‘spear-phishing,’ when scammers target businesses for bills they may owe, asking them to immediately wire money to fake bank accounts.
7. Binary option scams: $7.5 million reported
When non-registered brokers sell stock, by advertising trading systems under multiple names and fake testimonials.
8. Fake lottery winnings: $3 million reported
When fraudsters ask victims to pay a small fee for their “winnings” to be released.
9. Canada Revenue Agency scam: $4.3 million reported
When someone claiming to be from the CRA calls and tells the potential victim that they have made an error on their tax return or neglected to file it, and then asks for financial or banking information to settle an alleged debt.
10. Fake online endorsements and sponsored content: Unknown
Also known as ‘astro-turfing,’ when scammers offer to write fake online endorsements of a product or service as if they are ordinary consumers.