Top 5 Cyber Scams to Avoid
Written by Kelley Keehn

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

The holidays are fast approaching and more Canadians than ever will likely be shopping online this year. That means fraudsters will also be looking to take advantage.

In the first nine months of 2020, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) said there were 39,696 reports of fraud, 18,533 victims and $67.2 million in lost dollars. As alarming as those numbers seem, it's a fraction of the true harm committed against Canadians, since the CAFC says less than 5% of victims ever report being defrauded. So the real number is much greater.

If you're planning to shop online this holiday season, familiarize yourself with these scams from the past year. It's important to be aware of how to spot the red flags, so you can avoid falling prey.

Top 5 Online Scams to Watch Out For

1. Merchandise: This can include fake classified, resale, popup or fake company ads for everything from events, puppies, clothes apartments or rentals. Simply put, not every ad for a product or service you see online is legit.

2. Service: These are fake requests offering services. They could be services such as duct cleaning or furnace repair, but could also be fake requests from a bank or government. They also include immigration scams involving cheap or simple immigration services from websites that look official.

3. Sales of Merchandise by Complainant: This scam involves you posting a legitimate ad for yourself personally or your business. The fraudsters then contact you and try to siphon money from you by sending you bogus payments. They send a fake cheque for more than the asking price and then request that you send the remainder back, but you're on the hook for the entire amount.

4. Job: Fraudsters offer you hundreds of dollars to “wrap your car" with a company logo, apply to become payment processor ("financial agent") or a mystery shopper. How they work is criminals send you a fraudulent cheque and then ask for the remainder to be sent back to them, or payments in the form of small gift cards.

5. Counterfeit Merchandise: Sometimes a deal looks too good to be true. Counterfeiters post fake websites that look like the real ones but offer inferior products that could even cause health hazards.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre's Top Tips to Stay Safe From Fraudsters

  • Be cautious of greatly reduced prices, such as 70% or 80% off
  • Notice text with spelling errors or references to the product as "the item"
  • Beware of pets offered at below market value or free. Always meet and purchase a pet in person
  • Locate and verify the company's contact information (address, phone number, email) before you buy
  • Look for customer reviews and ratings from third-party sources. A website's own reviews can be fake
  • Be mindful where you post your resume. Scammers use legitimate websites to seek out victims
  • Take the time to research an employer and confirm they're hiring
  • Never accept a cheque and request to send the “over payment" back
  • Be on the lookout for paying up front for a job opportunity. A legit job wouldn't ask for your money to apply for it

Stick to What You Know

When in doubt, stick with popular websites you know and trust. Most big box stores have official websites, and local shops you know likely have online options, too.

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