Well, mid-January is upon us and that can only mean one thing: it’s time to announce the Top 10 Scams, an annual list created in partnership between Consumer Protection BC, the BBB, the British Columbia Securities Commission, the Competition Bureau of Canada, the RCMP and the Vehicle Sales Authority. From romance to computer scams, this year’s list is themed “just in case a scam is around the corner,” showing how even the most convincing promise can turn out to be not exactly what it’s supposed to be. Read on to learn more about this year’s Top 10 list and tips on how to protect yourself against scammers.

The common scam we heard about in 2012

Now before we get to the Top 10 Scams, let’s take a look at what sort of scam-related calls we received here at Consumer Protection BC. Each year our Inquiry Centre receives thousands of calls from consumers on a wide variety of topics. In the area of scams, one of the ones we got the most about in 2012 was that pesky computer virus fixing scheme.

In this classic scam, you may receive a call from someone who claims that your computer has been infected by a virus. To gain your trust, the caller often identifies him or herself as an employee of Microsoft and offers to clean your computer using remote access (a troubleshooting tool where you give them full control of your computer). Once you give up control, the scam results in the fraudster having access to your personal, bank and/or credit card information – yikes!

Tips on how to avoid this scam: 

Know the signs. These computer scammers often try to gain your trust by telling you they’re from Microsoft – don’t believe them! In fact, Microsoft assures consumers that they never make unsolicited calls to you regarding computer security or software fixes. 

Keep your personal information safe. Be cautious about giving out your credit card information, especially over the phone to unsolicited callers. Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can verify that they are exactly who they say they are. 

Be cautious at home – and at work. These scammers have also been known to target businesses, and sometimes employees are more inclined to believe the caller is trying to help. If you’re unsure if the call is legit, refer it to your IT department or tell them you’ll return their call at a later date.

We hope you find the information useful. If you’ve encountered one of these scams (or have experience with one that hasn’t made this year’s list), we invite you to let us know by writing in the comment section below.