Common Scams and Fraud

“SCAMS WOW” – Common Scams and Fraud that Seniors Need to Know About

“SCAMS WOW2” – Common Scams and Fraud that Seniors Need to Know About

“SCAMS WOW3” – Internet and Romance Scams that Target Seniors

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Emergency Scams/ Grandparent Scam

Emergency scams target grandparents and play upon their emotions to rob them of their money.

What to Look For

In the typical scenario of an emergency scam, a grandparent receives a phone call from a scammer claiming to be one of his or her grandchildren. Callers go on to say that they are in some kind of trouble and need money immediately. They claim to have been in a car accident, are having trouble returning from a foreign country or they need bail money.

You may get a call from two people, one pretending to be your grandchild and the other pretending to be either a police officer or a lawyer. Your “grandchild” asks you questions during the call, getting you to volunteer personal information. Callers say that they don’t want other family members to find out what has happened. You will be asked to wire some money through a money transfer company. Often, victims don’t verify the story until after the money has been sent.

In some cases, scammers pretend to be your old neighbour or a friend of the family, but for the most part, the emergency scam is directed at grandparents.

Protect Yourself

Remember: Scammers are counting on the fact that you will want to act quickly to help your loved ones in an emergency.

Caution: Never send money to anyone you don’t know and trust. Verify the person’s identity before you take any steps to help.

Think: Don’t give out any personal information to the caller.

Investigate: Ask the person questions that only your loved one would be able to answer. Call the child’s parents or friends to verify the story.

Ask yourself: Does the caller’s story make sense?

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Service Scams

Many Canadians are being targeted by individuals claiming to offer reduced rates or deals for various services.

What to Look For

These scams typically involve individuals that make offers for telecommunications, Internet, finance, medical and energy services. This category of scams may also include offers such as extended warranties, insurance, and door-to-door sales.

The two most reported service scams targeting Canadians are the antivirus software scam and credit card interest rate reduction scams.

The scammers involved in the antivirus software scam promise to repair your computer over the Internet. This can involve the installation of software or permission to have remote access to your computer. Payment for the software or repair is typically made by credit card.

Downloading software from an unknown source or allowing someone to remotely access your computer is risky. Scammers could use malicious software to capture your personal information such as user names and passwords, bank account information, identity information, etc.

Everyone likes to get a deal and scammers know this. The people behind credit card interest rate reduction scams often impersonate financial institutions and claim to negotiate with credit card companies to lower your interest rates. They guarantee they can save you thousands of dollars in interest. The caller will tell you that the lower interest rates are for a limited time only and that you need to act now.

You might receive an automated call, prompting you to “press 1” and provide personal information, such as your date of birth and credit card number. You will also be asked to pay a fee up front for the service. The scammers will use this information to make purchases on your credit card or to access cash advances.

Protect Yourself

Remember: Only your service provider can offer you a better rate or price for their services.

Caution: Be wary of unsolicited calls from people offering a great deal “for a limited time only”.

Think: Don’t give out your credit card number over the phone unless you made the call and the number came from a trusted source.

Investigate: If a caller claims to represent your bank, telephone your bank to ask whether the offer you received is genuine.

Ask yourself: By offering up this information, am I putting myself at risk?

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Lotteries, Sweepstakes and Contests

Many Canadians are lured by the excitement of a surprise win and find themselves sending huge amounts of money to claim fake prizes.

What to Look For

You cannot win money or a prize in a lottery unless you have entered it yourself, or someone else has entered it on your behalf. You cannot be chosen as a random winner if you don’t have an entry.

Many lottery scams try to trick you into providing your banking and personal details to claim your prize. You should not have to pay any fee or tax to claim a legitimate prize.

Don’t be fooled by claims that the offer is legal or has government approval—many scammers will tell you this. Instead of receiving a grand prize or fortune, you will lose every cent that you send to a scammer. And if you have provided other personal details, your identity could be misused too.

A fake prize scam will tell you that you have won a prize or a contest. You may receive a phone call, an email, a text message or see a pop-up screen on your computer. There are often costs involved with claiming your prize, and even if you do receive a prize, it may not be what was promised to you.

The scammers make their money by making you pay fees or taxes, call their premium rate phone numbers or send premium text messages to claim your prize. These premium rate calls can be very expensive, and the scammers will try to keep you on the line for a long time or ask you to call a different premium rate number.

Protect Yourself

Remember: Legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay a fee or tax to collect winnings.

Caution: Never send money to anybody you don’t know and trust.

Think: Don’t provide personal banking details to anyone that you do not know and trust.

Investigate: Examine all of the terms and conditions of any offer very carefully—claims of free or very cheap offers often have hidden costs. Calls to premium rate phone numbers or premium text messages can be very expensive.

Ask Yourself: Did I enter this contest? You cannot win money or a prize in a contest unless you have entered it yourself, or someone else has entered it on your behalf.

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Source: the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre