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  • Take note! 5 current scams to avoid

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    Lifestyle Blogs

    Posted By: Shopcost India

    We’ve all heard stories about innocent people being scammed out of hundreds, thousands and even higher amounts of money. Here’s how to make sure you’re not one of them.

    When Sherel Purcell got a postcard saying she had won $100 worth of gas, she thought her partner’s passion for contests had finally paid off. “I called John at work to tell him,” says the Toronto woman. Then, she called the 1-800 number on the card.

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    The friendly woman who answered told Sherel she could have the reward in either gas or groceries. The catch: Sherel would have to pay a $3.99 “processing fee” bycredit card. “My radar went up,” she says. “I had a friend who’d had a similar experience. She gave out her Visa number, and her credit card kept getting charged.”

    Sherel hung up the phone before any damage could be done. But not all of us are quite so in touch with our inner skeptic. According to Daniel Williams, a fraud specialist with the RCMP Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), Canadians lose more than $65 million a year to scammers. “And that’s just what is reported to us,” says Williams. “The CAFC sees only about one to three percent of what’s out there.”

     

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    Why? Too often people are embarrassed to talk about it or, worse, it takes them years to figure it out. “They keep hoping that the prize will actually be delivered,” says Williams, “or the inheritance will come in.”

    Don’t let that happen to you. Here are some current scams to be aware of—along with expert advice on how to protect yourself.

    “You’ve been hacked.”
    The hook: This one comes by phone or email and purports to be from Microsoft or Windows tech support. The caller/emailer tells you he has detected a problem with your computer and urges you to allow access so he can fix it. If you give him the information, he disables your firewall and other protection. He may then trick you into downloading software that collects online banking information, user names and passwords— for the purpose of robbing you—or he may infect your computer with a virus and charge you a fee to fix it (often about $300 for a “lifetime”). “They create the damage in the first place,” says Williams. “And then, voilà, they’re the knights in shining armour who repair the damage—for a fee.”

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    Protect yourself: No legitimate tech-support agent is ever going to hunt you down to fix a problem on your computer. “You can have green smoke and blue cheese coming out of your computer; that’s your problem,” says Williams. He warns not to open attachments and links unless you know the person who sent it and there’s a personalized message attached.

    “I’m calling from Canada Revenue Agency.”
    The hook: This diabolical scheme relies on the fact that many of us live in fear of the CRA. The caller says there’s been a tax audit and you’re in serious trouble. Your options are to pay $3,500 immediately or police will be at your door within 45 minutes. “They rely on terror,” says Williams. “They say you’ll be carried off in handcuffs, and you’ll be going to court, where you’ll face a $70,000 fine and 13 years of jail time if you lose, so you’ll never see your kids again.”

     

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    Protect yourself: If someone calls requesting payment, ask for the person’s name and where he or she works, advises Const. Brian Montague, spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Department. Then, tell the person, “I’m going to hang up and contact the CRA directly to ensure that you are who you say you are.” Scam artists sometimes approach victims via email, according to the CRA. The agency warns people to contact it directly—not via an emailed link, which could connect you to afraudulent website. Note, too, that the CRA will not ask for personal information such as your passport, health card or driver’s licence numbers, and it won’t seek payment via a prepaid credit card.

     

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    “Hey, Gramps, it’s me. I’m in trouble!”
    The hook: Fraudsters plug in the address of seniors’ buildings on Canada411.ca to get the names and phone numbers of residents. Then, they call claiming to be a grandchild in distress. The details vary, but the spiel goes something like this: “Help! I smashed up a rental car at a wedding in Saskatoon! I had one beer, and now, I’m in jail! I don’t want to panic Mom and Dad. Can you send $3,000 for bail?” Sometimes, the scammers take a chance and start with, “Hi, it’s me, your favourite grandson!” Grandparents may fill in the blanks with, “Billy? Is that you?” In other cases, scammers comb Facebook for pertinent details to sound authentic.

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    Protect yourself:
    Tell your “grandson” you’ll call him back on his cellphone, advises Williams. If he tells you it was destroyed in the accident, ask some questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer—the date of his mom’s birthday or the name of his first pet, for example.

    “If you wire me the funds, we could be together.”
    The hook: You’re lonely after the end of your relationship or the death of your spouse. Then, the stars seemingly align and you meet your soul mate online. He’s a single father who shares your passion for Jane Austen novels and Thai food. You’re in touch every day via text or online chats, and as months go by, you’re convinced that this wonderful person is the best thing in your life. So, when he asks you to send money to help him out of a jam, you think, Why not?

    Think twice. You could be the victim of an online romance scam, sometimes referred to as catfishing—when people pretend online to be someone they’re not—and one of the most lucrative scams in Canada, according to the CAFC. “The online romance scams, which we document,” says Williams, “are crimes by organized crime gangs doing business on an almost industrial scale with the definite intention to defraud their victims of money and property.” Last year, Canadians lost a reported $14 million to such romance scams. In June 2015, Ontario’s York Regional Police laid charges against the members of an online romance scam that bilked seven people of a total of $1.5 million. In 2014, a 49-year-old Vancouver teacher wired $20,000 to a bank account in Dubai to help the handsome engineer she had come to love during three months of email and phone conversations. He turned out to be fiction. Scammers find out what victims are looking for from their dating profiles, says Williams, “and that’s exactly who they become.”

     

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    Protect yourself: “Be very cautious and realize that this person is a stranger,” says Const. Montague. Even if you meet in person or talk regularly on the phone, you may not know his or her real name and details. Signs of a scammer may include photos that look more like modelling shots, dropping the L-word too soon and a tendency to say exactly the right thing all the time (real people have flaws). If that special someone asks for money, even a small amount, it should raise a red flag. “Small amounts usually lead to bigger amounts,” says Const. Montague. Worried? The website socialcatfish.com will run a search on your potential mate to verify identity.

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    “That’s a $20 donation for the bracelet, thank you.”

    The hook: You’re strolling downtown when a monk approaches. He slips a bracelet around your wrist or hands you a “prayer card.” Then, he hounds you for a donation, perhaps even grabbing your arm and following you. Don’t feel bad if you don’t pony up—he’s an impostor. Fake monks have been spotted in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg. “They can be quite aggressive,” says Const. Montague. “But a legitimate monk would not ask for donations in this fashion.”

     

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    Protect yourself: Return the card or bracelet and walk away. “They’ll generally move on to someone else,” says Const. Montague. If someone approaches you, either at your door or on the street, for a charitable donation, Const. Montague says to ask for the organization’s registration number and written information about the charity, including its name, address and phone number. Once you’ve verified the charity is legit, donate online, he says, “rather than giving money or credit-card information to a stranger.


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