Categories
Better Business Bureau Canada

BBB Scam Alert – Watch out for Facebook “friends” pushing phony COVID grants

Free COVID Relief Funds? Could Be a Grant Scam (original article from the Better Business Bureau)

In tough economic times, it can be hard to turn down free money – especially if it appears to come from a friend. BBB.org/ScamTracker is receiving numerous reports that con artists are stealing information from Facebook and Instagram accounts and promoting phony COVID-19 relief grants to their network and Friends list.  

How the Scam Works

You get a Facebook Messenger chat or Instagram direct message that look like it comes from a friend, relative, community member, or another other person you trust. The message is telling you about a grant for COVID-19 relief. You “friend” may claim to have already applied and received thousands of dollars.

Scammers are either hacking social media accounts or creating separate lookalike profiles by stealing photos and personal information.  Either way, these con artists are banking that you will trust a message that appears to come from someone you know.  For example, one recent victim was contacted by someone posing as a leader in their church. “This scam was very convincing. [It looked like it came from] someone I know and trust,” they wrote. “Because of COVID-19, I’m laid off, so I would try it. [The scammer] said my name was on a list to receive this grant money. I lost $1,000.00 of my unemployment.”

While many people report being targeted through social media, that’s not the only way scammers are reaching potential victims. Other versions of this scam use phone calls and text messages.

No matter how you hear about a “grant,” there’s a major catch! To get the “grant,” you need to pay upfront first. The scammer will claim the money pays for “delivery” or “processing.” The scammer will take the money, and your grant will never materialize. 

How to spot a phony grant scam:

Be wary of your friends’ taste online. Your friend or family member may have impeccable judgment in real-life. But online, email messages, social posts, and direct messages could be from a hacked or impersonated account.

Don’t pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” grant, it isn’t really free. A real government agency won’t ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant you have already been awarded. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is www.grants.gov. For information regarding Canadian grants, contact the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Check for look-alikes.  Be sure to do your research and see if a government agency or organization actually exists. Find contact info on your own and call them to be sure the person you’ve heard from is legitimate.

Report scam accounts and messages to Facebook and Instagram. Alert administrators to fake profiles, compromised accounts, and spam messages by reporting them on Facebook and Instagram.

For More Information

Learn more about government scams (BBB.org/GrantScam). For advice on keeping your Facebook account secure, check out this article in Facebook’s Help Center.

If you’ve fallen victim to this kind of scam, help others avoid the same pitfall by filing a scam report atBBB.org/ScamTracker.

Categories
Canada Canada Revenue Agency

CRA – Tax Schemes Alert

Beware of schemes that promise large tax deductions or tax-free income. – Original alert from the CRA

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is advising Canadians to steer clear of tax schemes this tax season.

What are tax schemes?

Tax schemes are plans and arrangements that try to deceive taxpayers by promising to reduce the tax they owe, for example, through large deductions, increased rebates or promises of tax-free income. Tax schemes can include illegitimate ways of convincing people to pay less tax or to increase their claims for credits and benefits.

Be careful. Here are some common elements of tax schemes:

They deduct a promoter’s fee from an anticipated tax refund

They are positioned as financial products or business opportunities

They may be advertised (on the web, or in social media, newspapers or fliers sent to households)

There is often a sales pitch (free information session, paid seminar, webinars)

They promise tax savings, and often include large returns on small investments

A good rule of thumb: If something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

Consequences of participating in a scheme

As a participant in a tax scheme, you could be assessed penalties and interest in addition to repaying any amount you wrongly received.

Individuals who are involved with the promotion or preparation of inaccurate or false tax returns may be subject to third-party penalties, as well as criminal prosecution if the activities undertaken constitute tax evasion.

If a promoter or a participant is convicted of tax evasion, they must pay the full amount of tax owing, plus any interest and any civil penalties assessed by the CRA. In addition, the courts may order fines  up to 200% of the taxes evaded and impose a jail term of up to five years. The CRA shares information about individuals, corporations and trusts convicted of tax evasion. For additional information, please refer to the following pages: The CRA’s criminal investigations process and Enforcement notifications.

What can you do to protect yourself and other taxpayers from tax schemes?

Get professional, independent advice when needed, especially if a deal seems too good to be true

If in doubt, get a second opinion before claiming an amount on your income tax and benefit return

If you participated willingly in a scheme, come to us to correct your tax affairs through our Voluntary Disclosures Program, before we come to you

Help ensure tax fairness for all Canadians by reporting a lead to the CRA

For more information on tax schemes, please visit canada.ca/tax-schemes.

Contacts

For general inquiries:
Canada Revenue Agency
1-800-959-8281

For reporters:
Media Relations
Canada Revenue Agency
613-948-8366
cra-arc.media@cra-arc.gc.ca

Categories
Better Business Bureau Canada

BBB – Google Password Alert

The Phishing Scam is After Your Google Password – BBB Scam Alert

Don’t let your curiosity get the better of you. A new scam appears to be an email from Google, informing you that someone has shared a photo album. But it’s really a phishing scheme that’s after your password.

How the Scam Works

You get an email or text message that appears to come from Google Photo. Someone is sharing an album of photos with you. To view the photos, you just need to click the link. The message looks so real! It may use a convincing URL, which has been created by Google’s goo.gl URL shortener to appear to be an official Google domain name. The message also seems to come from the email noreply-photos@google.com.

The catch? There is no photo album. It’s a phishing con. When you click the “View Photo” link, it will open in your web browser and prompt you to log into your Google account. If you enter your information, you are giving scammers your username and password. Con artists can now access your email account as well as any other accounts that use the same login information.

How to avoid a phishing scam:

Follow these tips to protect yourself from this and other online phishing scams.

Never click on links in unsolicited messages. Phishing scams direct you to websites that look official, but these sites may be infected with malware. If you don’t know and trust the person who sent you the message, don’t click on any links.

Be careful with shortened links. Con artists often use link shorteners, such as Bit.ly or Goo.gl, to disguise scam links. Be extra cautious when following one of these links because you can’t tell where it leads.

If it seems strange, it may be a scam. Be wary of any message that comes from a friend but seems out of character. (For example, an old work acquaintance who contacts you out of the blue.) It may have originated from their account, but they could be victims, too.

Don’t fall for “urgent” scams.  Scammers like to cause alarm to create urgency. You might get a message that indicates you’re in a compromising video, your password is being reset, your account is in danger of deactivation, or some other dire situation that needs immediate attention. If it seems unlikely, watch out.

For More Information

Read more about common phishing scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/PhishingScam.

If you’ve been a victim of this or another phishing scam, be sure to report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others to spot a scam before it’s too late.

Categories
British Columbia RCMP

Raising awareness to help prevent jewelry swindles

A common jewelry scam is making the rounds once again in the Lower Mainland and the BC RCMP is reminding the public to be vigilant and protect themselves from swindlers.

This week the BC RCMP was alerted to incidents which have taken place in a number of detachments in the Lower Mainland including Mission, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge, Richmond, and Burnaby, where members of the public were defrauded after being approached for financial assistance in parking lots. The BC RCMP is again issuing a warning in the hopes of preventing further victimization. A similar plea was issued earlier this summer following a string of incidents in the southeastern part of the province

In these incidents, the victims were approached by individuals who claimed they were travelers from out of province – and out of money. Under the guise of trying to raise money to return home, they offered to sell their valuable gold jewelry to the victims. The jewelry is offered to the victim at what is purported to be a much lower price than its value. In an effort to help the traveler, the victims bought the jewelry and later discovered they were worthless fakes. The victims in these recent incidents paid $800, and $1000 for what turned out to be costume jewelry.

This scam is successful in part, because it relies on the fact that so many people are willing to help a person they believe is in distress. That is why it’s important that we spread the word about this scam, said Staff Sergeant Janelle Shoihet, BC RCMP Media Relations Officer. It’s great to help people but be cautious, particularly when someone is offering you a great deal on high valued jewelry. Ask yourself ‘if the jewelry is so valuable, and they need cash, why don’t they pawn it themselves?

For more information on scams and fraud visit our BC RCMP website.

Released by

S/Sgt. Janelle ShoihetSenior Media Relations Officer
BC RCMP Communication Services
bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca
14200 Green Timbers Way, Surrey, BC V3T 6P3 – Mailstop #1608
Office: 778-290-4134
Cell: 604-657-5730
Fax: 778-290-6114

Email: janelle.shoihet@rcmp-grc.gc.ca

Categories
Better Business Bureau Canada

Utility Impersonation Cons

Looking to save money right now? No matter how COVID has impacted your finances, be sure to say “no” to this scam deal. This summer, BBB.org/ScamTracker has received reports of con artists impersonating internet, cable tv, or electricity company representatives. They claim to offer a great deal or rebate on your bill, but it’s really a way to trick unsuspecting customers into shelling out hundreds of dollars.
How the Scam Works
You receive an unsolicited call offering you a reduced rate or rebate on your cable tv, electricity or other recurring bill. Speaking to the “customer service representative” may be quite convincing. Many scammers event use the same hold music as big-name providers and duplicate a company’s caller menu.
When speaking with the representative, they seem very professional. The caller explains that the company is offering a special promotion. If you pay several months up front, you can receive a discounted monthly rate or free perks, like premium cable channels. In another version of the con, the caller claims that you overpaid on a recent bill and are due for a rebate.
Then, things get fishy. Instead of using the payment information your cable company already has, they ask you to purchase pre-paid debit cards to make the up-front payment. Don’t do it! If you purchase the cards and send the information to the caller, your money will be lost for good.
Tips to avoid these scams
Never make payments with prepaid debit cards or gift cards. Scammers prefer these payment methods because there is nothing you can do to get your money back. Remember, legitimate companies almost always accept checks and credit cards as the primary means of payment.
If someone shows up at your doorstep, verify their identity. If you weren’t expecting a visit, ask the person for their ID and then call your cable company to verify that they are an employee.
When in doubt, verify special deals with your utility company. If you are unsure about a promotional offer you’ve been presented with, get the customer service number from the company’s official website or your latest bill. Call the company directly to make sure the offer is real.  
For more ways to avoid utility scams, see the BBB Tip: Utility Imposter Scam. If you’ve been the victim of a scam, please report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. By sharing your experience, you can help others avoid falling victim to similar scams. 

Categories
Canada

COVID-19 Government Scams

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, many government agencies are providing money and other support to help with pandemic-related hardships. Scammers, always ready to take advantage of people in crisis, have been stepping in with a new con. Watch out for con consultants claiming to “help” you get free government aid.

How the Scam Works

A website search, social media ad, or even an unwitting friend or family member directs you to a website of a new service claiming to help you get free money from government aid programs. These “consultants” say they can get you money from unadvertised government programs or programs where your application was previously denied. For example, scammers may assert that they can get you a personal loan from a government agency specifically for businesses. 

To get started, all you have to do is fill out some paperwork. This typically requires sharing sensitive, personal information, such as your full name, home address, and government ID numbers. Next, the “consultant” will ask you for an upfront payment for their services. You may also be required to pay a portion of the government aid funds you receive directly to the company, which they will likely ask for up front.

Most of the time, these “consultants” don’t really have any special information on government aid programs. Instead, they are simply hoping to get your personal information and an initial payment. Once you’ve paid, the consultant will disappear and the company will become unreachable. Your money may be lost for good and your personal information could be compromised, putting you at risk for identity theft.
Tips to Protect Yourself from These Scams

Research government aid programs through official channels. Visit websites that end in .gov or .ca for official information about government aid programs. Remember, government agencies don’t typically call, text, or send social media direct message without you opting into these channels.

Never give your personal information to strangers. Even if their story is convincing, it’s never wise to share your personal information with an individual or organization you hardly know.

Get to know a company before doing business with them. Before handing over money or your personal information, research a company and its claims. Ask yourself: Does this company have a good reputation? Are they BBB accredited and if so, what is their business rating? Does this government aid program actually exist? If a company representative gets defensive or aggressive when you ask questions to verify their claims, don’t do business with that company.

Beware of promises that sound too good to be true. Scammers are experts at pitching services and products that will miraculously solve all of your problems, be skeptical. Double check their claims before you agree to pay for their services or share your personal details.
For More Information
To learn more about common COVID-19 scams and how to avoid them, visit BBB’s COVID-19 resources.

If you’ve been approached by scammers who claimed to be financial aid consultants, report your experience on the BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report will help other consumers to stay alert and avoid falling prey to scammers.
Categories
British Columbia RCMP

Fake gold scam alert

Mounties are warning of a fake gold scam going around in the Southern Interior. 

Scammers approach their victims, often people who are naturally inclined to want to help people in need, at gas stations, grocery stores, shopping malls or plazas. 

The fraudsters then offer to sell them gold jewelry; the transaction is completed but the victim later finds out the gold is fake.

In another case, the scammer asks for money, often claiming to have lost their wallet. They say they need money for hospital bills or to escape an abusive domestic relationship, according to a news release from RCMP. 

“In this scenario, the con artist offers gold jewelry to the victim as collateral. The victim later discovers the gold is not real and does not hear back from the suspect,” police say. 

Scammers are usually both adult males and females; they usually appear South Asian or Middle Eastern, and sometimes claim to be from Dubai or Saudi Arabia. Some travel around in rental vehicles, sometimes with small children. 

“We recognize that many occurrences go unreported, as often times victims are embarrassed to acknowledge that they have fallen for these tactics. If you or a loved one has fallen victim to a similar scam, please call your local police,” Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey says in the release.

Between April and December 2019, Southeast District Mounties received 61 reports about the fake gold scam. Residents in the region were conned out of an estimated $15,000.

There weren’t as many incidents in the first part of 2020, likely due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place, RCMP say.

However, offenders are on the move again, with reports coming from Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Penticton and the North Okanagan in June and July.

You can see the original Castanet article here

Categories
British Columbia Canada

Identity Fraud on the rise

Identity theft and fraud

Fraud alert!

June 30, 2020: The CAFC is noting an increase in identity fraud reporting. Fraudsters are using personal information about Canadians to apply for government benefits, credit cards, bank accounts, cell phone accounts or even take over social media and email accounts. It is important that Canadians take steps to secure their personal and financial information and know what to do when identity fraud occurs.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft refers to criminals stealing someone else’s personal information for criminal purposes. Identity theft can be:

  • unsophisticated, such as dumpster diving and mail theft
  • more elaborate, such as phishing or database breaches

Computer spywares and viruses also help thieves steal personal information.

What is identity fraud?

Identity fraud happens when criminals use stolen personal information. It is often used to commit another crime.

Criminals can use your stolen or reproduced information to:

  • access your computer/email
  • access your bank accounts
  • open new bank accounts
  • transfer bank balances
  • apply for loans and credit cards
  • buy goods and services
  • hide their criminal activities
  • get passports or receive government benefits

Actions you can take to protect yourself

  • be wary of unsolicited e-mails, text messages, telephone calls or mail asking you for personal or financial information
  • check your credit reports, bank and credit card statements and report any irregularities
  • shred personal and financial documents before putting them in the garbage
  • retrieve your mail on a regular basis to limit possible mail theft
  • when you move, notify the post office and your relevant financial institutions and service providers

Link to the alert at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

https://antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/scams-fraudes/identity-identite-eng.htm?fbclid=IwAR3FRqy57Y8uHNPXer7GcZN2uoDS5u-TM86zt5AS_j8Ea4F1UyRfXtQXJwE

Categories
British Columbia Technology

Credit Card Skimming

Here is an interesting article about the uptick of Credit Card Skimming that’s taking advantage of the rise of online shopping during the global pandemic.  Here are some takeaway points from the article.

Shopping online is convenient but not risk-free. Ultimately, users are the ones who can make savvy choices and avoid many pitfalls. Here are some recommendations:

  • Limit the number of times you have to manually enter your credit card data. Rely on platforms where that information is already stored in your account or use one-time payment options.
  • Check if the online store displays properly in your browser, without any errors or certain red flags indicating that it has been neglected.
  • Do not take trust seals or other indicators of confidence at face value. Because a site displays a logo saying it’s 100% safe does not mean it actually is.
  • If you are unsure about a site, you can use certain tools to scan it for malware or to see if it’s already on a blacklist.
  • More advanced users may want to examine a site’s source code using Developer Tools for instance, which as a side effect may turn off a skimmer noticing it is being checked.

To read more about the article from Malwarebytes, click on the link here

Categories
British Columbia

34 percent of Canadians have fallen victim to fraud

The Chartered Professional Accounts of Canada has published a new survey that shows 34 percent of Canadians have fallen victim to fraud. We encourage you to read the article, but in summary, here are a few tips on how you can prevent yourself from being a victim of fraud from the article.

1) Create Better Passwords and don’t use an easy to guess password for your accounts.

2) Review your transactions from your bank of financial institution every month. If you see something suspicious, then report it

3) Shred Personal documents – Don’t toss personal documents into your recycling before shredding it. The West Kelowna Community Policing Society has a Shredding Event scheduled for May 2nd 2019, if you need to dispose personal documents. You can view the event here

4) Always keep an eye on your Credit Score. There are several companies that offer the service (TransUnion for example) along with Canada’s major banks.

5) Screen your calls. If you don’t recognize the caller, don’t answer the phone or respond to the text.