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Fake Online Endorsements

Followers and likes doesn’t mean its good advice

Consumers are often enticed to purchase a product or service based on reviews by social media influencers or those with a significant online presence. Unfortunately, there’s a chance that these reviews are not genuine and have in fact been paid for by a company as a marketing tactic. By not revealing their business interests and creating what seem to be authentic experiences or opinions, these influencers are misleading consumers and could be subject to action under the Competition Act.

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Ransomware

When your hard-drive is kidnapped

Ransomeware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer until a sum of money is paid. A computer can be infected by ransomware in a number of ways, but most commonly, victims click on a malicious link or attachment received through a phishing email. Once infected, victims will see a “ransom” note which is often designed to scare or extort the victims into making a payment. For instance, a message could appear saying that your personal files and pictures will be deleted unless the consumer pays $100-$250 via Bitcoin, Ukash, Apple Gift Cards, or PaySafe Card to have the computer unlocked

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Spoofed Websites

A spoofed website is a site that uses deceptive means to mislead consumers into thinking that it represents a specific business, financial institution, government or charity. These websites generally imitate the real websites to sell products or services that may or may not be authentic, or to obtain sensitive financial or personal information from users. Often they will provide enough information to appear like the real thing, including the location of stores, phone numbers, terms and conditions, and logos.

When entering any form of personal information on a website, make sure you see a padlock next to the address, so you know that no-one else is monitoring what you are entering online. If you don’t see a padlock, someone could steal any personal detail you are entering on the website.

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Employment Scams

Scammers use online classified websites like Kijiji, Craigslist, Monster, Indeed, and Workopolis to recruit potential victims. The most common scams include Mystery Shopper and HR/Administrative jobs. Consumers are offered a mystery shopper job after responding to an online ad or a text message. The victims receive a cheque in the mail with instructions to complete local purchases and send unspent funds through a money service business. Victims are told to document all experiences and evaluate customer service. Eventually, the cheque is returned as counterfeit and the “employee” is accountable to pay for the funds that were wired.

Another common job scam involves the victim acting as a financial receiver/agent. Victims are told to accept payment in their personal account (often by eTransfer or cheque), keep a portion and forward the remaining amounts to third party “employees” or “companies”. Victims are eventually advised by their bank that the original payment was fake or fraudulent and any subsequent monies sent are therefore paid out of the victim’s own pocket. Scammers will attempt to process as many payments as possible before the victim’s financial institution advises that the original payment was fake.

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Hoax News

Fraudulent or hoax news is becoming a chronic problem on social media and the Internet. In some instances “fake” news is being intentionally created and published to mislead the masses for political purposes or financial gain. In other instances, fake news headlines are used to lure victims to click on links and download malware and viruses onto their computers and mobile devices.

CONSUMER TIP: Don’t believe everything you read. Anyone can publish anything on the Internet. Social media allows both real and fake news to easily go viral. Consider the original source of all “news” content and be suspicious of unknown or pop-up news providers. Just because a news story has thousands or millions of views, does not make it legitimate. Use extreme caution when clicking on hyperlinks to news provided to you via email or social media and be sure to regularly update your virus software.

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Online Loans

Beware unscrupulous online loan service providers. Fake loan companies with fake websites have been known to take victims for thousands of dollars. Most fake loan companies require applicants to pay fees in advance of securing the loan to cover items such as interest payments, legal fees or insurance fees. Once the “fees” are paid, the lender disappears, no loan is provided and victims end up in greater debt.

CONSUMER TIP: Before applying for a loan in person or online carefully research the company first. Make sure the business is a legitimate, reputable lender. Look up the company’s BBB Business Profile (bbb.org). Legitimate financial lenders will not require you to pay a fee for paperwork, administration fees, legal fees or insurance prior to getting a loan. Typically, the cost of such fees is included in the total loan amount and is not an additional sum that you must pay up front to secure the loan.

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Bogus Customs & Delivery Charges

Do not to fall victim to unsolicited claims from fake delivery service providers stating that you owe customs and delivery charges for undelivered packages. Notifications may come via mail, email or phone for unanticipated deliveries. Such notifications are typically an attempt to canvas neighborhoods for absent homeowners and/or to extort bogus delivery and customs fees from unsuspecting victims.

CONSUMER TIP: Keep track of any expected packages or delivery services you commonly use (including the estimated delivery dates and delivery service provider companies being used). Ask friends, family members or other businesses that are sending you packages to notify you in advance that a package will be sent and which service provider they are using. Know that you do not have to pay taxes or duty on gifts valued at under $60 that are sent to you (Note: some exceptions apply).

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Fake Apps

Use caution when purchasing retail store or online shopping apps. Counterfeit apps are designed to look and feel like they belong to legitimate retail stores. Some fake apps will inundate you with pop-up junk ads, while others will result in credit card and personal information being stolen, or malware being installed on your mobile device. In some instances, mobile devices have even been locked down and held hostage until a ransom is paid to the scam artist.

CONSUMER TIP: Be very cautious when deciding what apps to download. Read customer reviews associated with the app very carefully. Never click on a link in any email to download a new app. Go to the website of the retailer to get a link to the legitimate app in the App Store. If you do decide to use an app, give as little information as possible. Be very reluctant to link your credit card to any app. If you link it and that app is compromised, fraudsters could steal all your account information.

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Auto Subscriptions

Many consumers taking advantage of online deals or trial offers for health and beauty products, vitamins, home care necessities, vacations and other items found themselves unknowingly signing up for expensive, seemingly endless, automatic monthly subscriptions for unwanted products. Beware difficult to find, non-existent, or complicated to understand fine print embedded in the terms and conditions or purchase contracts. Too-good-too be true offers often unexpectedly result in expensive subscriptions, cancellation fees and return shipping costs.

CONSUMER TIP: Always read the fine print before making any online purchases. Most online discounts and free trial offers come at some cost and are intended to lure consumers into becoming regular purchasers of a product or service. Unethical businesses and scam artists rely on victims to not have asked, looked for, or done their research before making such purchases. Do not provide your credit card or banking information to any company unless you are sure you understand the return and cancellation policies for a product or service.

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Phishing Imposters

No one is immune! Many computer virus and phishing scams masquerade as the emails or websites of legitimate businesses and organizations. Using the logo and good name of reputable charities, non-profits, banks, government agencies and businesses, scam artists send out a variety of legitimate looking, but fake links designed for you to click on so that they can install malware on your computer or steal your private information (such as passwords and account information).

CONSUMER TIP: Never open an email, click on any links in social media accounts, or download any files unless you are certain you know for certain who it is from, what it is about and if it is legitimate. If at any time you think you might have become the victim of a phishing or other computer, email or Internet scam, be sure to have your computer scanned by a trusted computer repair professional to see if any malware is present.