Now that all the New Year festivities have died down and we are making our way through the first weeks of 2012, here is an overview of the top 10 scams to watch out for. This list was created in collaboration with Consumer Protection BC, the Better Business Bureau of the Lower Mainland and the BC Crime Prevention Association.
- Brand Spoofing
Brand spoofing (aka phishing) happens when scammers create a false website or send consumers e-mails or text messages from what appears to be well-known and trusted businesses. When a consumer provides information to these fake sources, scammers gain access to private information such as SIN numbers or bank PIN numbers.
- Advance Fee Loans
Advance fee loans are illegal. You should never have to pay money upfront for a loan. We wrote an article about advance fee loans which you can check out here.
- Gold Buying Schemes
Nowadays you see advertisements from companies offering to buy your gold everywhere you look. Many traders are not providing fair returns and therefore it is very important to do your research before making a hasty decision.
- Financial Elder Abuse
Financial elder abuse occurs when scammers take advantage of senior person’s vulnerabilities which often come as people age. Common financial elder abuse frauds include tricking seniors into giving out private banking information, encouraging unnecessary home repair work, mail fraud, and selling seniors products they don’t need such as expensive vacuum cleaners or water purification systems. If you suspect an incident of financial elder abuse, contact your local police.
- Power Saving Claims
The switch to Smart Meters in BC was followed by scammers advertising and selling energy conservation devices. Consumers reported that these devices never worked or didn’t even meet electrical safety standards.
- Door-to-Door Sales
Some door-to-door salespeople use high-pressure sales tactics to sell their products. If you do not feel comfortable speaking with the salesperson, ask them to leave your property and if they refuse, call the police. Consumer Protection BC regulates door-to-door sales contracts. For more information, read more about it in the Consumer Help section of our website.
- Virus Fixing Scheme
Many consumers reported receiving telephone calls from who they thought was Microsoft advising them they had computer problems. In order to fix the problem, the caller could guide the consumer on how to download a special program for a fee. Those consumers who downloaded the program paid a fee for something that did not exist and actually downloaded computer damaging malware and spyware.
- Fraudulent Locksmiths
Consumers reported “local locksmiths” advertising online using a local telephone number and local address, but when contacted, consumers are connected to a call centre in another city and there is no locksmith at the address listed in your area. Consumers who have hired these companies allege that they have been overcharged for products and services, received bad advice or poor workmanship, or have had difficulty contacting the business to correct problems.
- Penny Auctions
If you are tempted by “free” trials or ads for penny auctions, remember to be cautious and read the fine print before you start bidding. It costs money to bid and even if you don’t win the item, you will be required to pay for all of the bids you have placed. Do your research to make sure you are actually getting a good deal and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
- Anti-Social Network
As social networks such as Facebook and Twitter grow, consumers are becoming exposed to more targeted advertising schemes. You will often see “free” trials of products or services advertised or many ads for “work-at-home” jobs. Be very careful of any links you are interested in clicking as doing so could result in unknowingly accepting viruses to your computer.
For a complete copy of the Top 10 Scams of 2012 list, please click here.