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Better Business Bureau Canada

BBB Scam Alert – Scammers Trick Travelers with Lookalike Websites

With the COVID-19 vaccine effort ramping up, people are starting to plan future vacations and work travel. For many, this preparation involves renewing their enrollment in Trusted Traveler programs, such as TSA precheck or Global Entry in the United States and NEXUS in Canada. Scammers are on to this trend! According to recent BBB Scam Tracker reports, con artists are creating lookalike websites in an attempt to trick you out of personal information and money.

How the Scam Works
You do a web search for one of the programs above that are designed to help speed known travelers through airport security. Your web browser displays a list of results. The official website likely appears high up on the list. But also included are websites designed to look just like the official one.

When you click on the website, you find a third-party company that either impersonates the government department or offers to do all the paperwork for you. These sites may charge you the cost of the application fee, plus a hefty service fee to cover the cost of their “help.” In addition, you’ll be asked to fill out forms with sensitive, personal information including your full name, passport number and home address.

Even if you pay up, the company may never submit your application form through the correct channels.  You will have lost money and shared your personal information with scammers.
How to avoid lookalike website scams:

Double check the URL before you enter personal and payment information. Always double check that you are on the right website and that the link is secure. Secure links start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. In the United States, all government websites end in “.gov.” In Canada, government agency websites are under gc.ca.

Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed. Unfortunately, there is no way to get back the personal information you may have shared. 
For More InformationTo learn more about protecting yourself from scams, read up on lookalike websites and see the BBB article, “10 Steps to Avoid Scams.” Also, this BBB tip has advice for planning travel during the pandemic.

If you have been the victim of a phony website scam, help others avoid falling prey to similar scams by reporting your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

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Better Business Bureau

BBB Scam Alert: A COVID-19 vaccine is on the way. So are the scams.

With United States and Canada close to approving a COVID-19 vaccine, government officials expect scams to emerge as distribution begins. Watch out for everything from phony treatments to phishing messages.

What to Expect from Scammers: 

Government officials have already been cracking down on phony COVID testing kits and treatments. Now, they are ramping up efforts to prevent the sale of fake vaccines.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working with the drug companies developing the vaccines to stop the sale and distribution of phony versions. Also, the Federal Trade Commission issued warning letters to several companies claiming they had a product to cure or prevent the virus. 

Selling fake vaccines and other treatments is likely only one of many ways scammers will try to cash in on the vaccine release. Watch out for phishing messages attempting to trick you into sharing your passwords and personal information. Con artists have already impersonated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in phishing emails that claim to have news about the disease. BBB has also seen an increase in scams using robocalls to impersonate government officials.


How to Spot a Coronavirus Vaccine Con: 

  • Research carefully: Scammers are very creative, so be skeptical of anything that seems too good – or crazy – to be true. Double check any information about the vaccine with official news sources. And be aware that none of the vaccines can be currently purchased online or in stores.
  • Check with your doctor:  If you want a vaccine early, reach out to your healthcare provider about your options. If you don’t have a primary care physician, check out the official website of your local health department for more information
  • Ignore calls for immediate action. While you may want to be first in line for the vaccine, don’t let that sense of urgency cloud your judgment. Scammers try to get you to act before you think. Don’t fall for it.
  • Think the link may be real? Double check the URL.Scammers often buy official-looking URLs to use in their cons. Be careful that the link is really what it pretends to be. If the message alleges to come from the local government, make sure the URL ends in .gov (for the United States) or .ca (for Canada). When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website.

You can view the original article from the BBB by clicking on the link below.

https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/23475-bbb-scam-alert-a-covid-vaccine-is-on-the-way-so-are-the-scams

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Better Business Bureau

BBB Scam Alert – Watch Out For These “Money Flipping” Cons

Want to turn $500 into $10,000 with very little effort?  Of course, you do! Scammers are taking advantage of people’s get-rich-quick dreams by promoting “money flipping” scams on social media, and BBB is seeing dozens of reports each month about these cons.

How the Scam Works:

You see a photo of a pile cash on social media. In the caption, the user brags about having “flipped” a couple hundred dollars into thousands. Want to do it, too? It’s easy. Just message the account holder. The “investor” will ask you to send money – typically $300 to $800 –  through Cash App or another digital wallet service. Then, they “invest” your money in the stock market where it multiples in a few days.

Sounds great, right? Here’s the catch. When you try to get your money back, the scammer claims that Cash App charges a fee to return it. In other cases, the con artist alleges that you first need to pay taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. Some victims report sending thousands of dollars in phony fees. Every dollar you pay for money flipping – from the initial “investment” to the alleged taxes – is going straight into the scammer’s pocket. You won’t see any of your money again.   

Cash App and its parent company Square are aware that scammers are using its platform in this way and they have communicated with customers who have been impacted by certain scams. They recommend that any customer in need of additional assistance contact their support team cash.app/help.

Tips to Avoid Money Flipping Scams:   

  • Tell a real Cash App giveaway from a scam. Since 2017, Cash App has been running weekly giveaways under the hashtag #CashAppFriday. The company partners with businesses and celebrities, who ask users to retweet or comment on their social posts in hopes of being selected for a cash prize. Scammers often use similar language and pretend like they are part of an official giveaway. Make sure a giveaway is real before you respond. 
  • Search online. Before contacting the potential scammer, do a web search of their username or phone number. If it’s a scam, chances are that other victims have posted complaints and information online.
  • Be very wary of buzz words. Certain phrases should raise a red flag. Don’t believe anything that is “guaranteed” to do well, or that offers low or no risk with a high return. Anyone who claims to be able to turn a small investment into piles of cash in mere minutes is a scam artist.
  • Treat Cash App like cash. Once you send money though Cash App, you may not be able to get that money back. It’s now scammers payment method of choice, so be careful.

You can view the original article from the BBB by clicking on the link below.

https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/23322-bbb-scam-alert-this-get-rich-quick-con-promises-fast-money-on-cashapp

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Better Business Bureau

BBB Scam Alert: COVID clinical study scams promise big bucks

Thought we had seen the end of COVD-19 scams? Think again! Scammers are sending out text messages promoting participation in phony clinical studies. Don’t be tempted by the opportunity to help scientists while making extra cash. Make sure it’s the real thing before you sign up.

How the Scam Works 

You receive an unsolicited message via text, email, or a social media message. It explains that you may qualify for a COVID-19 study, which pays upwards of $1,000. One version received by BBB staff read: “Local Covid19 Study: Compensation up to $1,220! Qualify Here: [link removed] stop2stop.” 

No matter how curious you are – or how much you could use an extra $1,200 – don’t click. It’s a scam!  The phony message includes a link to see whether or not you qualify for the study. If you click it, you could unknowingly download malware onto your computer or phone. This virus can give scammers access to your usernames, passwords, and other personal information stored on your computer.

In other cases, the link may take you to a website that looks like a real clinical trial. You will be asked for personal information, such as government ID or bank account numbers. Real medical researchers would never ask for this information during the screening process!

How to Avoid Clinical Trial Scams

  • Look up the domain. Use lookup.icann.org to look up the URL. Look for warning signs such as a very recent registration date or registration in a foreign country.
  • Think the trial is real? Find it on the official website. If you receive a message about a study and want to confirm whether it’s true, go directly to (or do a web search for) the organization’s website for further information. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) also maintain ClinicalTrials.gov, a free searchable database of clinical studies on a wide range of diseases. If there is no government agency, university, or hospital mentioned, it’s likely a scam.  
  • Never pay to be part of a clinical trial. Real clinical trials will never ask you to pay them.
  • Legitimate clinical trials do gather information about candidates – but not financial information. To screen for participants, a real study might ask for your name, contact information, age, gender, race, ethnicity, or various pre-existing medical conditions. But they should never ask you for information like your bank account details.

You can view the original article from the BBB by clicking on the link below.

https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/23355-bbb-scam-alert-covid-clinical-study-scams-promise-big-bucks

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Better Business Bureau Technology

BBB Scam Alert: That Zoom invite is really a phishing scam

Thanks to the global pandemic keeping people at home, the popular video conferencing platform Zoom has seen usage grow exponentially in 2020. Naturally, this has attracted the attention of hackers and scammers. With a huge user base to target, con artists are using old tricks in new scams to try to steal your information.

How the Scam Works

Out of the blue, you receive an email, text, or social media message that includes Zoom’s logo and a message saying something like, “Your Zoom account has been suspended. Click here to reactivate.” or “You missed a meeting, click here to see the details and reschedule.” You might even receive a message welcoming you to the platform and requesting you click on a link to activate your account.

Scammers registered more than 2,449 Zoom-related domains from late April to early May this year alone. Con artists use these domain names, which include the word “Zoom,” to send you an email that looks like it’s coming from the official video conferencing service.

No matter what kind of phishing message you receive, scammers hope you will click on the link they’ve included in their email. These links can download malware onto your computer or lead you to a page where you are prompted to enter your login information. Entering your username and password gives scammers access to your account and any other account that uses a similar login and password combination.

How to Avoid Phishing Scams

  • Double check the sender’s information. Zoom.com and Zoom.us are the only official domains for Zoom. If an email comes from a similar looking domain that doesn’t quite match the official domain name, it’s probably a scam.
  • Never click on links in unsolicited emails. Phishing scams always involve getting an unsuspecting individual to click on a link or file sent in an email that will download dangerous malware onto their computer. If you get an unsolicited email and you aren’t sure who it really came from, never click on any links, files, or images it may contain.
  • Resolve issues directly. If you receive an email stating there is a problem with your account and you aren’t sure if it is legitimate, contact the company directly. Go to the official website by typing the name in your browser and find the “Contact Support” feature to get help.

You can view the original article from the BBB by clicking on the link below

https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/23421-bbb-scam-alert-that-zoom-invite-is-really-a-phishing-scam

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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.

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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.